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Sunday, 07 July 2024 14:30

UK PM calls Ramaphosa - both leaders vows to deepen relations between UK,SA.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.


The United Kingdom Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and President Cyril Ramaphosa have expressed their shared commitment to deepening relations between South Africa and the United Kingdom (UK).

Starmer has entered 10 Downing Street as the first Labour leader to become prime minister following an election since Sir Tony Blair in 1997.

It's the latest reinvention for a man who went from human rights attorney to hard-nosed prosecutor and from young radical to middle-aged pragmatist.

Born in 1963, Starmer is the son of a toolmaker and a nurse who named him after Keir Hardie, the Labour Party's first leader. One of four children, he was raised in a cash-strapped household in a small town outside London.

His leadership has coincided with a turbulent period that saw Britain suffer through the COVID-19 pandemic, leave the EU, absorb the economic shock of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and endure economic turmoil from Liz Truss' turbulent 49-day term as prime minister in 2022.

Ramaphosa congratulated Starmer on his electoral victory and said the Statement of Intent framing South Africa’s Government of National Unity (GNU) incorporated many objectives shared by the two new administrations.

According to the Presidency, the Prime Minister expressed his interest in "working closely with South Africa as part of executing the strong mandate given to the Labour Party in the general election on Thursday, 4 July 2024."

The two leaders viewed today's discussion as a continuation of the deliberations in which they engaged in November 2022 when Ramaphosa visited London on the first State Visit hosted by His Majesty King Charles III.

Starmer was at that time the leader of the opposition Labour Party.

"Ramaphosa described the bilateral relationship as a special bond and said South Africa wished to see greater alignment with the UK at the national and multilateral level, with South Africa's Presidency of the G20 in 2025 providing one such opportunity.

"Ramaphosa foresees closer cooperation with [the] UK in the political, social, people-to-people, diplomatic, trade and investment and climate change domains," said the Presidency.

The Prime Minister agreed that the G20 would be a platform for advancing shared interests in climate change, economic growth and the eradication of inequality.

Meanwhile Starmer has said he will not continue with the previous Conservative government’s policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, in a move welcomed by rights advocates as long overdue.

"The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started. It's never been a deterrent," Starmer told his first news conference on Saturday.

"I'm not prepared to continue with gimmicks that don’t act as a deterrent," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting, describing the plan as a "problem that we are inheriting".

Parliament approved the contentious law in April, declaring Rwanda a safe third country, which bypassed an earlier UK Supreme Court ruling that said the scheme was unlawful on human rights grounds.