President Cyril Ramaphosa has spoken fondly about the friendship between the late Queen Elizabeth and South African former statesman Nelson Mandela, at Buckingham Palace, where His Majesty King Charles III hosted a State Banquet in honour of the President.
The President also recalled the first State Visit to the United Kingdom (UK) by Madiba, the first democratically elected President of South Africa, in 1996.
“The special friendship between President Nelson Mandela and your late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is legendary,” the First Citizen said on Tuesday evening.
“It provides a very strong foundation upon which we can now further our relations.”
President Ramaphosa is the first Head of State to be hosted for a State Visit under the reign of King Charles III.
His Majesty and the Queen Consort welcomed President Ramaphosa at Horse Guards in London on Tuesday.
The President then addressed the Joint Sitting of the British Parliament earlier in the day ahead of the banquet.
“I feel very privileged that I and my country, South Africa, have the distinct honour of being your first guests on a State Visit since you acceded to the throne following the passing of your beloved Mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whom we honour here this evening.”
He described the gesture as a sign of goodwill and sincere friendship that the two countries enjoy.
“South Africa and the United Kingdom have a special historical relationship. It is a relationship that we value and that we seek to deepen.”
President Ramaphosa told the guests that since the dawn of democracy in South Africa, their ties have become stronger and have embraced an expanding range of interests.
“In times of uncertainty and instability, a friendship such as ours is particularly important,” he said.
“We are urged by our common commitment to peace, stability, democracy and shared prosperity to work together to overcome the difficulties of the present and prepare ourselves for the challenges of the future.”
The President believes partnership and collaboration are needed to address the current challenges that the world faces and improve the lives and prospects of all people.
“It is my sincere wish that through this visit, we will expand the scope and deepen the value of our relationship.”
He said he was looking forward to reinforcing cooperation in areas such as investment and trade, education and skills development, health, and science and innovation.
He also spoke about strengthening ties between the British and South African people through tourism, sport, arts and culture.
“For now, it is perhaps best that I steer clear of the upcoming rugby match on Saturday!” he quipped.
He also complimented the King’s visionary leadership on environmental issues such as conservation and the fight against climate change.
“These are critically important areas for my country and we are pleased that the United Kingdom is a partner in the Just Energy Transition Partnership.”
According to Sky News, the King said President Ramaphosa’s visit offers the chance for the UK and South Africa to “chart a path forward together investing in each other’s potential”.
“It is only by working together across our countries and our generations that we will tackle some of the greatest challenges of our time, for instance, our collaboration in science innovation is literally vital in order to protect people’s health by preparing for future pandemics,” the news channel quoted the King.
“Perhaps above all, we must find and implement practical solutions to the twin existential threats of climate change and biodiversity loss.”
Source: South African Government News Agency