King Charles to host the first state visit of his reign next month as he welcomes the president of South Africa to Buckingham Palace.

King Charles to host the first state visit of his reign next month as he welcomes the president of South Africa to Buckingham Palace.

King Charles
King Charles to host the first state visit of his reign next month as he welcomes the president of South Africa to Buckingham Palace.—

President Cyril Ramaphosa and his wife, First Lady Tshepo Motsepe, have accepted an invitation to visit the King and Queen Consort.

The visit will take place from Tuesday November 22 to Thursday November 24.

It is understood the trip was in the early stages of being planned before the Queen’s death in September.

It will be the first time a South African leader has visited the UK in an official capacity in more than a decade, with the last state visit being in 2010 when Jacob Zuma visited the late Queen.

The King has visited South Africa on a number of occasions since his first tour of the country in 1997, which included stops in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

He last travelled to the country in 2011, with the Queen Consort. It was not a state event.

The Queen shared a particularly close relationship with Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa. The pair were said to have enjoyed a warm friendship, and unusually, referred to each other by their first names.

Mr Ramaphosa, who has been in power since 2018, is the fourth leader of South Africa since Mr Mandela.

State visits are an exercise in soft power and red carpets, filled with royal ceremony and banquets, but focused on the hard-headed business of strengthening international relationships.

It’s the Foreign Office that advises on which countries are invited – the last being US President Donald Trump in 2019, before Covid stopped any further state visits.

It’s pomp with a purpose against a backdrop of pageantry, photo ops and the jangle of a royal carriage ride. Even the paintings and items on view from the Royal Collection can be changed to set the right tone.

For the first time it will be King Charles who will now be the host at Buckingham Palace, proposing the toast to the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Charles was a guest at the state banquet in 1996 when Nelson Mandela paid a state visit, after post-apartheid South Africa had rejoined the Commonwealth.

The new King will want to build his own bridges with the Commonwealth, sending a message about supporting diversity and multiculturalism.

When he arrives, Mr Ramaphosa will be given a ceremonial welcome on Horse Guards Parade, and then invited to a state banquet hosted by the monarch.

He is expected to spend the rest of their trip visiting Prime Minister Liz Truss, government ministers and leaders of the main political parties.

But Mr Ramaphosa’s visit is clouded by allegations of money laundering.

The rolling scandal, which erupted in June, has seen Mr Ramaphosa accused of covering up of a robbery that took place at his private farm in February 2020.

He has repeatedly denied the allegations and insists he will stand for a second term in the 2024 national elections as ANC leader and president.

 

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