King Charles hosts South Africa’s Ramaphosa for first state visit

The monarch welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa as the UK seeks to bolster its ties with its biggest trading partner in Africa.

King Charles has hosted his first state visit since becoming British monarch, welcoming South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to Buckingham Palace.

Charles, 74, rolled out the traditional pomp and ceremony on Tuesday for the first time as head of state, as Britain seeks to bolster its relations with its biggest trading partner in Africa.

Ramaphosa and his wife were officially greeted by Charles’s eldest son and heir Prince William and his wife Kate at a central London hotel to mark the start of his two-day trip, the first state visit to the UK by a world leader since that of former United States President Donald Trump and his wife Melania in 2019.

Prince William and his wife Kate greet President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Corinthia Hotel in London [Justin Tallis/Pool via Reuters]

Gun salutes and a ceremonial welcome from the king and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, followed before a grand carriage procession along The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where a banquet will be held later in the president’s honour.

Ramaphosa is scheduled to visit Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and see the memorial stone for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

He will also address lawmakers in Parliament and meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Trade, investment ties

Britain hopes the visit, which had been planned before the death of Queen Elizabeth in September, will strengthen trade and investment ties between the two nations, and show the importance of links with the Commonwealth of Nations, the international organisation that Charles now heads.

“This is a reinforcement of the strong bilateral relationship that we have with South Africa, a real opportunity to build on that close working relationship and discuss some of the issues that affect us all,” British Foreign Minister James Cleverly told Reuters news agency.

The last state visit to Britain by a South African leader was that of President Jacob Zuma in 2010, when he was met by Charles and Camilla at the start of the trip.

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