Johannesburg (ADV) – President Cyril Ramaphosa will on Tuesday host Theresa May, who will be on a working visit following bilateral meetings. This will be the first time in 7 years a sitting United Kingdom prime minister will visit South Africa in a bid to strengthen trade and investment relations.
Ramaphosa and May first met during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April and then at the G7 in Canada in June. During the bilateral engagements the two leaders discussed potential partnerships.
“The working visit by Prime Minister May seeks to further cement economic relations built up over several decades,” the Presidency said on Monday.
Bilateral relations between South Africa and the United Kingdom are strong, covering a range of areas of co-operation linked to both governments’ priorities.
The UK was South Africa’s 6th largest global trading partner in 2017, with total trade at R79.5bn.
The UK also remains the key source of long-haul tourism to South Africa, with nearly 448 000 visitors in 2017.
SS Mendi recognition
As a sign of goodwill, May is expected to present President Ramaphosa with the SS Mendi Bell, which was found in the English Channel a year ago.
In 1917, the SS Mendi suffered one of the worst maritime disasters in the 20th century in UK waters.
On February 21, 1917, a large cargo steamship, SS Darro, collided with the Mendi in the English Channel, south of the Isle of Wight. The Mendi sank, killing 646 people, most of whom were black South African troops.
The Mendi was chartered by the British government as a troop carrier to serve in World War 1, carrying 823 members of South Africa’s Fifth Battalion.
They had completed 34 days of the voyage from Cape Town to England, and were on their way to France to fight the war when tragedy struck in the English Channel.
In 2017, the SA government commemorated the centenary of the sinking of SS Mendi.
“The handing over of the SS Mendi Bell to the people of South Africa is a mark of respect for the shared history and bilateral friendship between the two countries,” the Presidency added.
Bur-csa – Nomsa Mdhluli – ADV