State Visit from South Africa
His Excellency Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, and First Lady of South Africa Mrs Tobeka Zuma began their State Visit to Norway today. Their Majesties The King and Queen received the president and his wife at a formal ceremony this morning.
The State Visit is taking place in Oslo on 31 August – 1 September.
Official welcoming ceremony
The President and First Lady were formally welcomed to Norway by King Harald and Queen Sonja at a traditional ceremony on the Palace Square. Their Royal Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess were also in attendance.
President Zuma and King Harald inspected the Kings Guard and the King and the presidential couple took the time to talk to some of the children who had come to watch the ceremony. Afterwards the King introduced the South African guests to representatives of official institutions in Norway.
Following the welcoming ceremony President Zuma attended a meeting with President of the Storting Dag Terje Andersen, after which the King and Queen held an official luncheon at the Royal Palace for their guests.
Laying of wreath and flowers
King Harald and Queen Sonja accompanied the presidential couple to Akershus Fortress. It is traditional for visiting heads of state to lay a wreath at the national monument at Akershus Fortress. President Zuma inspected the Kings Guard before laying a wreath in commemoration of the Norwegians who lost their lives in the Second World War.
The tour then continued on to Oslo Cathedral. President Zuma and his wife laid flowers on the steps of the cathedral in memory of the victims of the tragic events of 22 July.
Nobel Peace Center
This afternoon the King and Queen and the presidential couple visited the Nobel Peace Center. The excellent relations between Norway and South Africa have a firm foundation in the support given by Norway to the African National Congress (ANC) during the fight against apartheid. The visit to the Nobel Peace Center included a meeting with representatives of Norwegian anti-apartheid organisations.
Four South African citizens have received the Nobel Peace Prize, primarily for their efforts in the struggle against the apartheid regime. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President of the African National Congress Albert Lutuli in 1960, to Bishop Desmond Tutu in 1984, and in 1993 jointly to Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk.
There was also time to visit the current exhibition on explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for his international efforts to help refugees in the wake of the First World War.
This evening the King and Queen are hosting a gala banquet for 225 guests at the Royal Palace in honour of President Zuma and the First Lady. Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Princess Astrid Mrs Ferner will also be in attendance.
The Kings speech at the banquet will be published soon after it has been delivered.
Facts about South Africa
Capital cities: Pretoria, Cape Town and Bloemfontein. Largest city: Johannesburg Total area: 1 219 912 km² (Norway = 385 186 km²)
Population (2011): Approximately 49.1 million
South Africa has 11 official languages. English is used in most official contexts, but in everyday life isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sesotho and Setswana are more commonly used.
Form of government: Republic
Head of state (2011): President Jacob Zuma
Strong ties have been established between Norway and South Africa, not least as a result of the support given by Norway to the African National Congress (ANC) during the struggle to end apartheid. Today relations between the two countries revolve around dialogue on global issues such as peace and democracy, conflict resolution, the Millennium Development Goals, and environmental and climate issues. Research and higher education are important areas of cooperation and a growing number of Norwegian students are pursuing part of their study programmes in South Africa.
King Harald and Queen Sonja conducted State Visits to South Africa in 2009 and 1998 and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela undertook a State Visit to Norway in 1999.
Key industries: Finance and mining
Exports to Norway (2008): NOK 2 278 million
Imports from Norway (2008): NOK 770 million
Sources: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and www.safrica.info
Congratulations are presented today from His Majesty King Harald to His Excellency Mr Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia.
World Heritage at Vega
In 2004, UNESCO inscribed the Vega Archipelago on the World Heritage List. Today His Royal Highness The Crown Prince was in attendance to open the new Vega Archipelago World Heritage Centre – Norway’s first authorised centre of its kind.