Zimbabwe and South Africa have inaugurated a high level platform for engagement and strengthening ties between the two neighbouring countries known as the Bi-National Commission (BNC), which is co-chaired by the two countries' presidents and which will meet annually to deepen all round co-operation.

Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Jacob Zuma of South Africa last year agreed to set up the BNC, upgrading cooperation levels from the Joint Commission for Co-operation which was established in 1995 and was chaired by the two countries foreign affairs ministers.

To date, Zimbabwe and South Africa have signed 38 agreements in different sectors.

Speaking at the inaugural BNC meeting here Thursday, the two leaders stressed the need for urgent implementation of signed agreements as a matter of urgency.

President Mugabe said establishment of the BNC reflected "the dynamic and logical evolution of our already comprehensive bilateral co-operation".

"We have agreed and look forward to working closely together as strategic partners, in defending our sovereignty and independence, in fostering economic development, in promoting and maintaining peace and security in our countries and region," he said.

"We need each other, even more as we face renewed assaults on our independence and sovereignty."

President Zuma said the two countries shared a special history which would be consolidated with the establishment of the BNC. I am convinced that the inauguration of the Bi-National Commission

will take our relations to a different level and we must exploit this opportunity as two countries' that have very close historic relations, with the kind of economies that if they acted in unison, they can create different economic activities in the region," he said.

The leaders stressed the need for implementation of an agreement signed in 2009 to establish a One Stop Border Post at Beitbridge border post, which links the two countries to facilitate smooth movement of people and goods.

Presidents Mugabe and Zuma said it was also imperative that a business forum for companies in the two countries be established and become a part of the annual meetings of the BNC.

At the end of the BNC, Zimbabwe and South Africa announced they were establishing a Joint Trade and Investment Committee which would address issues of concern as well as come up with new ways to enhance economic co-operation. The committee will be set up by end of the first quarter in 2017.

An air services agreement facilitating access to the airspace by national carriers and other airlines between the two countries was also signed.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe assured South African investors that their investments in Zimbabwe were safe."We wish to see more South African investments here, as much as we wish to also see more Zimbabwean investment in South Africa," he said.