President Ramaphosa, May to hold trade talks

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

President Cyril Ramaphosa and UK Prime Minister Theresa May are expected to hold talks in Cape Town this morning, aimed at boosting trade ties. 

May landed in Cape Town International Airport on Tuesday and was welcomed by Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. 

“The working visit by Prime Minister May seeks to further cement economic relations built up over several decades,” said the Presidency. 

This visit comes at a time of enormous change across Africa with a unique opportunity, as the United Kingdom moves towards Brexit. As such, Britain has indicated that it seeks to invest in and work alongside African nations, with mutual benefit.  

According to May’s office, her central message will be focused on a renewed partnership between the UK and Africa, which will seek to maximise shared opportunities and tackle common challenges in a continent that is growing at a rapid pace – from the Sahara to South Africa. 

“She will use a speech on the opening day of the visit in Cape Town to set out how we can build this partnership side by side with Africa, particularly by bringing the transformative power of private sector trade and investment from the UK to a continent that is home to 16% of the world’s people but just 3% of FDI and 3% of global goods trade.” 

Bilateral relations between South Africa and the United Kingdom are strong, covering a range of areas of cooperation linked to both governments’ priorities.  

These relations are managed through a Bilateral Forum at the ministerial level, which meets biennially. 

The UK was South Africa’s sixth largest global trading partner in 2017, with a total trade at R79.5 billion.

The UK also remains the key source of long-haul tourism to South Africa, with nearly 448 000 visitors in 2017. 

A trip to Robben Island has also been arranged for May who will also present President Ramaphosa with the SS Mendi Bell, which was found in the English Channel a year ago. 

In 1917, the SS Mendi suffered disaster in what has been described as one of the 20th century's worst maritime disasters in UK waters. 

On 21 February 1917, a large cargo steamship, Darro, collided with Mendi in the English Channel, south of the Isle of Wight. Mendi sank, killing 646 people, most of whom were black South African troops. 

About 616 South Africans, 607 of which were black troops, plus 30 crew members, mostly from Britain, died in the tragedy. About 139 of the soldiers who died were from the Eastern Cape. 

The SS Mendi ship was chartered by the British government as a troop carrier to serve in World War 1, carrying 823 members of the fifth battalion. 

They had completed 34 days of the voyage from Cape Town to England and were on their way to France to the war when tragedy struck in the English Channel. 

In 2017, the South African 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 said. –