Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe File photo: Xinhua/Stringer

Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, whose wife Grace remains at the centre of a legal storm over an alleged assault of a 20-year-old local model, is heading for South Africa next week.

Zimbabwe's first lady, who was granted immunity from prosecution by the SA government for allegedly whipping Gabriella Engels with an electric cable in a Johannesburg hotel room last month, denies the allegations. Instead, Grace, 52, says an "intoxicated and unhinged" Engels attacked her with a knife.

The Presidency on Friday said President Zuma will on Tuesday host Mugabe, during his official visit to South Africa to attend the 2nd Session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission (BNC) scheduled to take place in Pretoria.

The Agreement establishing the BNC was signed in April 2015 and inaugurated in October 2016 in Harare, Zimbabwe, and it stipulates that the BNC should meet on an annual and rotational basis. 

Next Tuesday's BNC session, which will be co-chaired by Zuma and Mugabe, will afford them an opportunity to review the state of the bilateral relationship between the two neighbouring countries.

"It will further provide a platform to strengthen and deepen the warm and cordial bilateral relations between the two countries as well as to review and determine the actual progress made on bilateral undertakings and commitments made during the inauguration Session of the BNC last year," said the Presidency.
 
Zuma and Mugabe are also expected to deliberate and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual concern, particularly peace, security, stability and development in the SADC region and some parts of the continent.
 
South Africa and Zimbabwe have good bilateral political, economic and social relations underpinned by strong historical ties dating back many years. The two countries do not only share strong historical relations but also economic cooperation.

Zimbabwe is one of South Africa’s top five trading partners on the continent, with trade statistics showing annual growth. In 2016, South Africa’s exports to Zimbabwe amounted to approximately R29.3 billion.

There are over 120 South African companies doing business in Zimbabwe in various sectors including mining, aviation, tourism, banking sector, the property sector, the retail sector, construction sector, and the fast food sector and many more.

To date, the two countries have signed more than 40 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and Agreements. The Agreements and MoUs cover a broad range of areas, which include among others, trade and investment, immigration, defence, transport, agriculture, environment, energy, health, labour, water management, taxation, as well as arts and culture.

Zuma will be supported by several ministers including International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nkqakula, Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, Home Affairs Minister Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize and Transport Minister Joseph Maswanganyi.

It could not be immediately established if the 93-year-old Zimbabwe leader will be accompanied by his wife, Grace.