South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomes Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde
Diplomat Times (JOHANNESBURG)- President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde for a state visit at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday.
In a video shared by his office, Ramaphosa introduced social development minister Lindiwe Zulu and apologised for his wife Dr Tshepo Motsepe’s absence, saying she is unwell.
His Excellency President @CyrilRamaphosa receives His Majesty Prince Philippe and Her Majesty Queen Mathilda of the Kingdom of Belgium who are on a State Visit to South Africa from 22 to 27 March 2023 at the invitation of the President.#BelgiumInSA 🇧🇪🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/lolA7wApGd
— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) March 23, 2023
Shaking hands, the two leaders said, “Good to see you again.”
Ramaphosa praised the collaboration between South Africa’s Afrigen Biologics firm and Belgium’s Univercells Group to develop a novel mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and to improve preparedness for future health emergencies.
South Africa and Belgium have a longstanding bilateral tie. It is our responsibility to build on this foundation and to create more opportunities for our two countries to work together. President tweeted
South Africa and Belgium have a longstanding bilateral tie. It is our responsibility to build on this foundation and to create more opportunities for our two countries to work together.
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 (@CyrilRamaphosa) March 23, 2023
The effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were also to be discussed between the two leaders, with Ramaphosa emphasizing that South Africa supports a peaceful solution to the war. South Africa has not publicly criticized Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
“We look forward to sharing our perspectives on the conflict during our meeting, and to learn more about Belgium’s stance. It is also important to consider the impact of the conflict on the international economy, especially with regards to global food and energy security,” Ramaphosa said ahead of meeting privately with the king.
Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said Belgium understands South Africa’s stance on the war in Ukraine and urged South Africa to use its “channels of communications to advance on a path toward peace.”
“I think this is the major foreign policy issue for Europe and it will likely remain so, I’m afraid, for the next months. We are fully committed to help Ukraine defend itself. We see this as essential to defend European security but also the U.N. Charter’s principle,” said Lahbib.
Introducing Zulu, Ramaphosa said, “You have already met her, maybe not — this is minister of social development Lindiwe Zulu.
“I am sorry, my wife is not well. She would have loved to join [us] but she is taking long to recuperate.”
South Africa's first lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe's absence from some of these state events is worth noting. I don't recall seeing the first lady at recent state events. @SundayTimesZA pic.twitter.com/wyajJgjBCT
— Amanda Khoza – The Journalist (@MandaKhoza) March 23, 2023
Last year, Motsepe was expected to join Ramaphosa’s state visit to Britain. However, she could not attend after doctors advised her not to travel because she was recovering from eye surgery.
“We have always looked up to South Africa as a key partner for peace and the defence of human rights and basic international principles,” said Lahbib.
The Belgian monarchs are expected to engage with South Africa’s business, academic and civil society in Johannesburg and Cape Town over the next few days and visit historical and cultural sites.