The King and Queen of Belgium were welcomed by ceremonial splendor, complete with a cannon salute, on the first day of their official visit to South Africa at the Union Building in Pretoria on Thursday.
Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa will play host to King Philippe, his wife, Queen Mathilde, and several Belgian leaders for the next five days during the group’s visit to Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Rhewal it reported earlier that this visit is the first to South Africa by the Belgian monarchy, and according to the South African presidency, it is also symbolic of the strong bilateral relations that exist between these two countries.
The royal couple were welcomed by the ceremonial guard of the South African Army in front of the Union Building today. Dr. Naledi Pandor, the minister of international relations and cooperation, Patricia de Lille, minister of tourism, as well as several cabinet members welcomed the royals and their delegation together with the president.
It seems that tourism, trade, foreign investment and renewable energy will be the main points of discussion during the couple’s visit. It is also expected that the royals will visit popular South African attractions.
The couple flew to Johannesburg on Air Belgium, which made its first flight to South Africa in September last year.
This visit is one of many to African countries that the Belgian royal family has recently undertaken.
According to Jaco Kleynhans, head of international liaison at the Solidarity Movement, this is part of their effort to improve Belgium and the Belgian royal house’s image in Africa.
“South Africa has strong ties with Belgium and therefore it makes sense for the Belgian king to visit South Africa now. We have extremely favorable trade relations with Belgium and our exports to Belgium are almost three times more than our imports from that country. We still export a lot of diamonds and other metals to Belgium, but the exports of cars and food have also increased in the last few years.”
According to Kleynhans, the fact that other Belgian dignitaries are visiting South Africa with the royals is also a clear sign that Belgium, just like many other European countries, wants to protect their economic interests in Africa.
“On the one hand, there are concerns about state decay in South Africa and South Africa’s closer ties with Russia and China. On the other hand, Belgium, just like Germany, France and other European countries, sees great future opportunities in Africa and South Africa is still a logical entry country to the African market.”
Kleynhans also says that the Belgian royal house has been plunged into controversy in recent years due to personal and political scandals. This royal house is also not particularly popular in the northern Flanders parts of Belgium because their family language is French.
Rhewal reported earlier that King Albert, King Philippe’s father, had an illegitimate child, Delphine Boël, with his mistress of 18 years, Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps, in 1968.
In 2020, after a long legal battle, the former king admitted that this 55-year-old artist is his child. She is now officially called Princess Delphine of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Watch the video of the royals’ welcome at the Union Buildings:
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