A historical take on the dynamic relationship between South Africa and the UK and how crucial Ramaphosa and Charles’s meeting would be for the future.
On an eventful Tuesday (22nd November 2022)—with the favorites Argentina thrashed by the underdog Saudi Arabian team at FIFA World Cup 2022, South Africa’s fifth democratically elected president, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, was warmly welcomed by King Charles and the Queen Consort Camilla for his two-day visit to the United Kingdom. This has been the King’s first state visit since his ascension in September and the first in the past three years due to a worldwide lockdown due to the COVID pandemic.
The history of the United Kingdom and South Africa is long and complicated. The two have been connected through various means for several centuries. British settlers first arrived in South Africa during the 17th century due to the first European expansion into Africa, including exploration and settlement of other areas such as North, Central, and West Africa. With that being said, the socioeconomic relations between the UK and South Africa have been strained due to controversial topics such as Apartheid in South Africa. This article will explore those major events to understand this dynamic relationship and how crucial Ramaphosa and Charles’s meeting would be for the future of this relationship.
The Auspicious Welcome
With a traditional ceremony glamorized in native British splendor, Charles greeted His Excellency at Buckingham Palace. Over a thousand soldiers and 200 horses took part in the auspicious welcome! The South African president paid tribute to Nelson Mandela, and the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth II, in the spirit of the incredibly close socioeconomic relationship between the once-world-dominating empire and its most profitable trading partner in the African continent. An appearance to lay garland at The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey was also on the South African delegation’s agenda.
Prior to a decorated reception at Buckingham Palace, the South African president and first lady were formally received by King Charles’s eldest son and the rightful heir to the English throne, Prince William and his wife Kate, at a hotel in Central London to mark the start of the first state-visit to the UK by any world leader since ex-US President and first lady, Donald & Melania Trump back in 2019. Moreover, the last visit to Britain by any South African leader was made in 2010 by anti-apartheid activist turned President Jacob Zuma of the African National Congress—the same Ramaphosa belongs, serving as President Zuma’s Deputy back then.
The Dialogue Between The Two Leaders
During the lunch that followed, Ramaphosa and Charles also discussed future bilateral initiatives that can be taken by the Commonwealth and National Assembly of South Africa to establish peace, dialogue, and economic prosperity to strengthen trade and investment in the region.
“South Africa, like the Commonwealth, has always been a part of my life. My mother often recalled her visit in 1947, the year before I was born, when, from Cape Town on Her 21st birthday, she pledged her life to the service of the people of the Commonwealth,” said King Charles in his prolific welcome speech.
“By pursuing these and other avenues for cooperation, I believe that we will define the relationship between South Africa and the United Kingdom in new and exciting ways,” Ramaphosa responded to the hospitable gesture offered by the British Monarch.
Relations Between the UK and South Africa Over the Years
The 1980s decade was marked by a struggle for political change and civil rights in South Africa. The decade began with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in February 1990. Before his release, he was the leader of the African National Congress (ANC), a purpose-driven organization advocating for the rights of all South Africans. So, when he was finally released, it was a massive moment for the whole nation. The Black political opposition in South Africa started the decade hoping to change the Apartheid system. They wanted to have more rights and to abolish the system that had been in place since 1948. However, the decade’s end didn’t bring the desired political change. Instead, the nation remained divided, and the ruling party, the National Party, stood its ground.
The 1990s saw a shift in the socioeconomic relations between the UK and South Africa from strained relations to re-engagement. This shift was facilitated through the UK government’s re-engagement with South Africa. The government had imposed sanctions on South Africa during the 80s. Sanctions were a form of political pressure used by the UK government to try to change the political regime in South Africa. The shift in the socioeconomic relations between the UK and South Africa in the 1990s happened partly because of a shift in the political regime of South Africa. By the end of the 1990s, the National Party had been replaced by a new political party called the New National Party. The change in political regime led to the lifting of sanctions by the UK government and the start of a new, more optimistic, relationship between the two nations.
A continued engagement between the UK and South Africa has marked the 21st century. The socioeconomic relations between the UK and South Africa have mostly been positive, though there have been a few hiccups. For example, the UK government-imposed sanctions on South Africa from 1986 to 1990. Those sanctions were a form of political pressure used to try to change the political regime in South Africa. However, they were lifted in 1990, when the government thought things were changing for the better in South Africa. The most recent decade has also seen a rise in immigration from South Africa to the UK, with South Africans being the fifth largest group of immigrants to the UK. The main factors contributing to this immigration are the socioeconomic problems in South Africa and the political instability in the region.
The socioeconomic relations between the UK and South Africa have undergone many different phases. The two countries first established relations in the mid-19th century. Relations were interrupted in the mid-20th century with the declaration of the First Boer War. There was also a period of strained relations during the 1980s. However, the two countries have been re-engaged with each other since the end of the 1990s. Ups and downs throughout their history have marked the socioeconomic relations between the UK and South Africa. The two nations first formed ties in the 19th century, and the relationship has continued to evolve in the centuries since. However, The relationship has been bumpy, but both nations have overcome their differences and forged stronger ties. Despite all the sour past and disgruntled feelings, we look forward to light! The first state visit between Cyril Ramaphosa and the newly ascended King Charles could be the beginning of a pivotal partnership between the two countries, looking for a promising future ahead.