• Vincent Magwenya
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President Jacob Zuma will visit the United Kingdom (UK) at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II. He is expected to discuss bilateral trade and issues of mutual interest with the Queen and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The trip is viewed as a positive step towards consolidating relations and improving trade between the two nations. The queen invites only one head of state a year to visit her, so Zuma’s visit is a significant stride for South African relations with Britain.
The South African president will be travelling to the UK on 2 March. On the morning of the 3 March, a horse carriage will collect Zuma at the London hotel and take him through St James Park in central London to Buckingham Palace where he will be the guest of Queen Elizabeth II.
He will be travelling with 12 Cabinet ministers including International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Water Affairs and Environment Minister Buyelwa Sonjica and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
He will meet with Conservative Party leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg.
The visit will include a state banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in honour of Zuma, and a banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor of London.
Zuma has been asked to unveil a plaque at Oliver Tambo House, the former residence of the late ANC president in Muswel Hill, and meet with community leaders who have had a long association with South Africa and the struggle for liberation.
The visit highlights the increasingly important economic relationship between Britain and South Africa. Britain is one of South Africa’s top three trading partners, with about R74.9 billion in trade passing between the two nations in 2008.
The UK is also South Africa’s largest foreign investor with investment flows ranging from R21.8 billion in 2004 to R47.7 billion in 2005.
Zuma will also be addressing the Members of the British Parliament at the Palace of Westminster.
“He will discuss social security with the queen; but heavyweight political discussions will be reserved for his meetings with British government and party leaders,” said Vincent Magwenya, presidential spokesperson.
“South Africa and the UK will also have a chance to share experiences as they are both preparing for major sporting events. South Africa is hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, while the UK is hosting the 2012 Olympic Games,” said Magwenya.
Cementing old relations
South Afria and the UK enjoy long-standing cordial relations, which date back to the colonial era.
Since 1994 the two countries have worked together on many bilateral and multilateral issues, and as partners on the SA-UK Bilateral Forum – a structured mechanism to manage and monitor bilateral relations between the two countries.
Areas of co-operation within the bilateral forum include agriculture, arts and culture, defence and military veterans, education, health, home affairs, national Treasury, police, science and technology, sport and recreation, tourism, trade and industry, and water and environmental affairs.