President of South Africa visits UK Parliament
22 November 2022
The President of South Africa His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa visited Parliament on Tuesday 22 November.
President Ramaphosa addressed both Houses assembled in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, gave a welcome speech and the Lord Speaker, Lord McFall of Alcluith, responded to the President’s address.
- See photos from the President’s visit to Parliament
- Read the speeches by the President of South Africa, Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker
- Watch the speeches on Parliament TV.
‘Your Excellency, my Lords, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
On the 11 July 1996, President Nelson Mandela addressed both Houses in Westminster Hall.
His moving and powerful address did not flinch from the dark parts of our two nations’ shared history. But it also recognised the many Britons who had campaigned to bring about change, and the long links between our two countries.
He spoke of “our common humanity and our human capacity to touch one another’s hearts across the oceans”. He said: “we come to you as friends”.
We are proud to have that friendship shown in addresses by your predecessors.
We are proud that, just over 25 years later, the President of a free, democratic, South Africa addresses us once again.
President Mandela was open about the challenges facing the new South Africa, but he also set out the ideals which would shape the future.
As a Member of Parliament, let me express my admiration of the Parliamentary system in your country.
I hope you will convey my sympathy to our Parliamentary colleagues at the dreadful fire at the South African Parliament earlier this year.
Our buildings embody our history, but ultimately Parliaments are made up of the people, the ideals which inspire those people, and the values they hold to.
The South African constitution is widely recognised as a model of its kind. It sets out the values which underpin it:
- Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.
- Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.
- Universal adult suffrage, regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government, to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness.
These are values we share.
Let me acknowledge the leadership South Africa displays in promoting these values not only in South Africa itself, but more widely.
I note you yourself, Mr President were Chairperson of the African Union in 2021. That Union has among its aims encouraging international dialogue, promoting peace, security, and stability and promotion of democratic principles and institutions and good governance.
In addition, South Africa is a member of the Southern African Development Community, the United Nations, and only African member of the G20.
It is a mark of the respect in which your country is held that South Africa is regularly invited to G7 meetings including the Summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, in 2021 when the UK was President of the G7 and was able to welcome you.
The links between our countries are strong: we are fellow members of the Commonwealth and the G20.
The UK-South Africa Bilateral Forum has a 2 year programme of activity across 16 different areas – ranging from health to climate cooperation. Priorities which shared by the UK government.
And the links between our Parliaments are strong. There are formal links through both Parliaments’ participation in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter Parliamentary Union.
There are informal links through the All Party Parliamentary Group on South Africa, whose aim is “To foster mutually beneficial relationships between the UK and the Republic of South Africa, in particular between the two parliaments, civil society, business and commerce, and arts and culture.”
So, Your Excellency, I am pleased to welcome you, and to express my hope that your visit to this country will be an opportunity for us to continue our two countries’ partnership for peace, freedom, prosperity and friendship, which Nelson Mandela looked forward to over 25 five years ago.’
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege for me to address this august gathering on behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa.
The ties between our countries are old and enduring.
The manifestations of our relationship abound.
If you have ever visited our Parliament buildings in Cape Town, you have may have seen in the gardens a statue of Queen Victoria, the revered ancestor of His Majesty King Charles III.
And not far from where we are gathered today, on the other side of Parliament Square, is a statue of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the father of our nation.
The presence of the statues of these two great historical figures at the seats of our respective democracies makes a powerful statement.
It makes a powerful statement about the duration, the meaning and the complexity of the relationship between our two peoples.
These statues are part of the story of a relationship that was founded in colonialism and conflict, dispossession and degradation.
And yet, these statues are also part of a story of redemption.
This is a story of relationship transformed; a relationship of solidarity and compassion, of a shared desire for equality, human rights and the fulfilment of the potential of all.
Over the last three decades, this has been a story of trade, investment, tourism, sport, education, art, science and innovation.
We therefore see this visit as an opportunity to celebrate our modern relationship, as equal partners, working together for the prosperity and security of our people.
We are grateful that the principles that are represented and safeguarded within these hallowed halls – democracy, liberty, humanity and equality – are now at the centre of our strong and dynamic bilateral relationship.
These principles not only guide our interaction with each other.
These principles also inform our shared perspectives on the difficulties confronting humanity and the opportunities for progress and development.
Our world today is beset by conflict and instability, by poverty and inequality.
We face the existential threat of a planet that is warming at a rate far faster than can sustainably be endured.
Collective action, within the appropriate global governance systems, is now more important than ever before.
A strong partnership between South Africa and the United Kingdom could make a significant contribution to multilateralism and the achievement of consensus on critical global issues.
It is essential that we reform the international institutions on which we rely in times of crisis and need.
We look to the United Kingdom to raise its voice in favour of more representative and more inclusive international bodies, including the United Nations Security Council and global financial institutions.
These bodies need to be better equipped to respond to the needs of countries with developing economies.
Our membership of the Commonwealth provides us with a body that can play an important role in crafting relevant and innovative responses.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many of the fault lines within the global order.
It laid bare the huge disparities in wealth, power, technology and health capacity.
It demonstrated both the capabilities and the limitations of institutions of global governance, finance and development.
Therefore, as we work to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic, it is essential that we address the inequality within and between nations.
Unless we act with urgency and purpose to close the gap between wealthy and poor, hardship and suffering will only deepen.
Instability, conflict and terror will increase.
We need to attend to the deficiencies in access to education, health care, safe water, sustainable energy and economic opportunity if we hope to end the poverty that is handed down from one generation to the next.
Nowhere is the need to tackle inequality more important than in our response to climate change.
Those countries that carry the least responsibility for global warming are most vulnerable to its effects.
They do not have the resources needed to adapt to drought, floods and rising sea levels.
And as they seek to grow, industrialise and diversify their economies, their energy needs will increase and the space they have to reduce emissions will narrow.
This places a responsibility on industrialised nations to contribute substantial resources to low- and middle-income countries to fund their climate actions.
This is not charity.
It is compensation for the harm done – and the harm yet to be done – to people in developing economies as a consequence of the industrialisation of wealthy countries.
And because a global reduction in emissions benefits all countries and all people, it is also a necessary investment in the future of humanity.
We greatly appreciate the commitment of the United Kingdom to the implementation of a just energy transition in South Africa.
It demonstrates a clear recognition by the UK government of the importance of supporting transitions to low-carbon economies in a manner that does not disadvantage affected workers, communities or industries.
We have called on the United Kingdom and the other partners to ensure that a substantial part of the funding takes the form of grants and highly concessional loans.
We are pleased that the final outcomes of COP27 hold out the promise of concerted action to address climate change.
It was President Nelson Mandela who espoused the vision of a global community of nations that strives by all means available to improve the human condition.
Given our history, given our shared values, given the durability of our relationship, I firmly believe that South Africa and the United Kingdom should work together for the realisation of such a global community.
Three decades ago, the British people joined hands with the people of South Africa – and with millions more around the world – to free Mandela and to end apartheid.
Now, let us rekindle the moral purpose of the global fight against apartheid to confront the discrimination, inequality and injustice that divides humanity and that stifles the progress of all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This State Visit is an opportunity to reinvigorate the ties of commerce, trade and investment between our two countries.
The United Kingdom is the largest foreign investor in South Africa and the country’s fifth largest export destination.
Over the last two decades, the United Kingdom has been South Africa’s largest source of tourist visitors outside of Africa.
There are few countries that have the depth of experience and knowledge of the South African economy than Britain.
British companies need to use this advantage to greater effect, to seek out the opportunities in our country for investment and for trade.
The cooperation in science and innovation between the two countries is significant, with rich potential for further expansion.
Since 2015, the United Kingdom has invested more than R350 million in Newton Fund partnerships with South Africa, reciprocated by a South African investment of R100 million.
The activities of the Newton Fund include a programme to train the next generation of radio astronomers in Sub-Saharan Africa, marine food security in the Indian Ocean, bio-medical research and innovation, and support for entrepreneurs in the informal economy.
Over 800 South Africans have benefited from the Chevening Scholarship programme, and there are currently over 130 South African PhD candidates studying in the United Kingdom.
We are convinced that there is great scope to expand these areas of cooperation.
As we strive to rebuild our economy in the wake of the pandemic and the era of state capture, as we work to create employment and economic opportunities for the 11 million South Africans who are without work, we are opening up new frontiers of growth and production.
We are undertaking far-reaching economic reforms to make our economy more competitive and more efficient, to reduce the cost of doing business and to encourage new entrants into several industries.
As we undertake the most significant restructuring of our energy market in almost a century to address severe power shortages, there are great opportunities for investment, innovation and partnership.
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.
By exploring the full extent of our common interests and capabilities, I am certain that we will add another chapter to our long and rich history.
As the members of this Parliament, you have been vital and engaged participants in the evolution of the relationship between our two countries.
You have provided support and encouragement.
You have stood by us during our darkest hours and you have celebrated our achievements.
We thank you for your friendship, solidarity and partnership.
Please be assured of the sincere and enduring friendship of South Africa and its people.
I thank you.'
'Your Excellency, my Lords, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen.
First, I would like to thank you for your kind words about the strong relationship which our two countries enjoy. It is a great honour to have you with us today.
On behalf of the House of Lords I thank you for your moving tribute to Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, not least as a leading champion of the Commonwealth. I also offer our sincere condolences on the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu last year; a great man who courageously dedicated himself to serving others in the pursuit of equality, justice, and peace.
As a youth my lifelong interest in politics was nurtured by reading about the situation in South Africa and learning from the writings and speeches of Archbishop Tutu and fellow clerics. Archbishop Tutu and his colleagues forced me to contemplate the central question of "Who is my Neighbour?" They correctly reflected that neighbours might perhaps be many thousands of miles from us, but were still neighbours whose needs, values, and progress we must support. My theme in thanking you today is South Africans and Britons as neighbours.
Occasions such as today remind us of the importance of engagement between our peoples and parliaments – it is through such engagement that we can form strong bonds.
As Commonwealth nations we share many values. We believe in upholding democracy; in the international rules-based system, and in protecting human rights. The South African constitution, drawn up in 1994 with your considerable input, is one of the most progressive in the world.
Our Parliaments share many personal connections. We welcomed President Mandela to this Parliament in 1996, and his great legacy still lives on, with his statue standing proudly in Parliament Square. I also remember his statue being erected on London’s South Bank in 1985 as many British people called for his release – that monument is now protected and listed, in recognition of its historic and international significance.
The House of Lords is proud to have counted among its number the late Lord Joffe, who defended Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia Trial. Previously, the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had chosen the Parliament in Cape Town to make his speech about ‘the wind of change’ sweeping Africa at one of the darkest moments of apartheid in 1960 – but bringing forward decolonisation across the Continent which eventually, after many years, saw freedom come to South Africa. Our respective Parliaments continue to have much to share, and the ambition to work together. Beyond Westminster, the UK has a diverse range of connections to those who built the modern South Africa; Oliver Tambo, for example, has his own statue in the north London Borough of Haringey, which was his temporary home during his exile while fighting apartheid.
It is reassuring to witness that since becoming President in 2018 you have led the way in restoring the ‘Mandela vision' for your country. I wonder if you – and the people of South Africa – realise the importance to the people of the United Kingdom of the success of the Rainbow Nation. We see South Africa as a beacon of hope, of reconciliation and of the common good – one that can inspire other nations to follow you.
Your personal commitment to educational reforms is well known, respected, and valued. As a former teacher, I share your passion. Finding ways to help young people achieve their full potential is crucial. As Senior Deputy Speaker I spent an hour each week speaking virtually to young students through our Learn with the Lords Programme. I always came away heartened by their optimism and enthusiasm. Last month my office hosted two work experience students from multicultural schools in London boroughs that are less prosperous than other parts of this city. Their reflections on the week they spent with us reminded me once again that our Parliament is a place for all communities across the UK.
Your Excellency, you spoke of the links between our two nations, and those links continue to deepen. We work together to protect mutual security interests, improve trade, and promote inclusive growth. South Africa is our largest trading partner in Africa, and British consumers have a special love of South African wine, as I’m sure many members of the House of Lords can testify!
There is also a large South African community here in the United Kingdom. The Springbok's victory in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, captained by Siya Kolisi and cheered on in many pubs and bars in West London, was more than a sporting triumph – it showed, to paraphrase Archbishop Tutu, that what would have seemed impossible thirty years ago – a Black captain of the Springboks - became possible. I also hear on the grapevine that you support Manchester United; I can only wish you good luck with that.
Archbishop Tutu’s steadfast faith and confident application of belief to everyday social problems serve as an inspiration for all of us in the political sphere. Understanding his approach brings me back to the central question of "who is my neighbour?" – a simple question which we politicians cannot evade if our pursuit, at its core, is to have a moral purpose.
You, Mr President, are my neighbour, and we are your neighbours. Our world is complex, and the present circumstances expose our vulnerability and the potential for increased polarisation, fragility, and disconnection.
In such a fractious environment we need the ability to hold our opinions whilst walking together and on occasions learning to travel in agreeable disagreement; let us become expert in the art of the encounter. We cannot achieve a better world other than working together globally – whether that be through addressing inequality, responding to migration, resolving climate change, and pursuing peace and disarmament. You are our vital neighbours and the realisation of the Rainbow Nation and South Africa’s role on the global stage is significant. There is much for us all to learn from you.
I conclude in a spirt of joint working and shared endeavour by thanking you, your Excellency, for visiting our Parliament today. We look forward to our enduring and positive relationship and we wish you and the people of South Africa well for the future. Thank you.'
- International affairs
- Parliament, government and politics