Ramaphosa arrives in London as King Charles hosts first state visit

21 November 2022 - 15:25
By Amanda Khoza
President Cyril Ramaphosa is in the UK for a two-day state visit at the invitation of King Charles III.
Image: GCIS. President Cyril Ramaphosa is in the UK for a two-day state visit at the invitation of King Charles III.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived in London on Monday morning, he was greeted by the Royal Air Force ceremonial lining party.

Shortly after greeting international relations minister Naledi Pandor and other dignitaries on the tarmac, Ramaphosa made his way into a Bentley at the Stansted Airport. He was then escorted to his hotel suite at the Corinthia Hotel.

Ramaphosa is in the country for a two-state visit at the invitation of King Charles III. The invitation was initially extended by the late Queen Elizabeth II before she died in September. 

First lady Tshepo Motsepe, who was meant to join the statesman on the trip, has been advised by her doctors not to travel because she is recovering from recent eye surgery.  

The programme for the much-anticipated state visit begins on Tuesday morning with the prince and princess of Wales, Kate and William, who will escort him to the ceremonial welcome, the Horse Guards Parade.

This is where he will be welcomed by the queen consort at the Royal Pavilion. He will meet the king and later head to Buckingham Palace. He will also tour Westminster Abbey, where he will honour the Unknown Warrior and later address MPs in a joint sitting at the Palace of Westminster.

Later there will be a state banquet to welcome Ramaphosa and his delegation at Buckingham Palace, where he is expected to give a toast to the king.

Speaking to the media at the airport, Pandor said the visit symbolised the strength of the relationship between the two countries.

“We were really thrilled and honoured when His Majesty indicated he wished the visit to proceed. The original invitation came from Her Majesty, the late Queen Elizabeth II, and King Charles III said he wanted SA to visit, and we were really excited that we are the first country to be invited to a state visit.”

Pandor said Ramaphosa was pleased to have the opportunity to show the king the very strong collaboration between SA and the UK, and to emphasise new areas of co-operation.

“I know His Majesty will be interested in our just energy transition plan, of which the UK is one of the international partners and in the area of health, where our scientists have collaborated very smartly with respect to Covid-19 variants.”

Biotechnology is another area Pandor said the king would be keen to discuss.

“Our scientists are working together to build that mega radio telescope, and I think [these are the key areas to emphasise] during the course of the visit. [We will] introduce our economic reconstruction and recovery plan because we have got to grow the SA economy.

“We have to have more jobs created, so the business forum is a very important part of the visit given that the UK is the fifth largest trading partner for SA.”

At a continental level, Pandor said she was looking forward to hearing what will come out of the review of Zimbabwe completed by the secretary-general of the Commonwealth.

“Zimbabwe would want to be readmitted to the Commonwealth family.”

Ukraine will also form part of the discussions with Pandor, who urged greater attention to seeking a peaceful outcome.

“We think that given the recent events, this is more and more urgent, and I am sure the president when he meets with PM [Rishi Sunak] will emphasise the need for greater efforts and diplomacy.”

She said Sunak would also brief Ramaphosa on what he found during his recent visit to the Ukraine.

“This will be part of the substance, but key for us is to attend to the African continent to ensure that the peace that has been signed between the TPLF [Tigray People's Liberation Front] and Ethiopia is held to good account, implemented and sustained in that friendly country.”

She also expects the two leaders will discuss how the UK can assist Mozambique’s bid to fight extremism.

“There are many African issues, so it’s important that we are not diverted from the focus on our continent.”


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