Dimitris Papamitsos / Greek Prime Minister’s Office/Flickr
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians have landed in South Africa for a five-day state visit.
The King and Queen arrived in Pretoria the evening before the official beginning of the visit, landing in Wonderboom Airport, north of the capital on 22 March.
Their Majesties have undertaken this trip accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hadja Lahbib, and the Presidents of the Communities that make up Belgium, Elio Di Rupo, Rudi Vervoort, Jan Jambon and Oliver Paasch.
As with many state visits, there will be several focus topics for this trip, including culture, academic education and economics, with activities that will take place not only in Pretoria, but also in Johannesburg and Le Cap, two of the countries’ biggest cities.
This is the first ever state visit to South Africa by a Belgian monarch and the first to any country on the African continent since 1979, when King Baudouin made a state visit to Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire.
This doesn’t mean that the Belgian King and Queen have never met some of the most significant figures in South Africa’s history before.
In preparation for this visit, the Belgian Royal Palace released a series of tweets and photographs detailing previous contacts, including a 1994 meeting with Nelson Mandela, when the then-Duke of Brabant was on an official mission to the country and an economic mission that Philippe and Mathilde undertook together to South Africa in 2006, during which they met, among others, with Mr Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
This will neither be the first time that King Philippe meets current South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, as the latter was welcomed for an audience at Laeken Castle in 2018.
This state visit will be slightly longer than usual, as it began on Thursday, 23 March and will conclude on Monday, 27 March. This is the second international trip for Queen Mathilde in this month alone, as she returned not long ago from a visit to Egypt with her eldest daughter, Princess Elisabeth, during which they retraced the steps of her namesake Queen Elisabeth.