King Charles III next week hosts his first state visit as monarch, welcoming South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his wife to Buckingham Palace.
The last state visit to the UK came in June 2019, when queen Elizabeth II hosted US president Donald Trump and his wife Melania.
Charles has yet to announce where he will go on his first overseas visit as king, and this was the first invitation he extended since succeeding his late mother in September.
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The pomp of the major diplomatic event will be clouded by events in South Africa, where Ramaphosa risks impeachment for allegedly covering up a crime.
Christopher Vandome, a senior research fellow at the Chatham House international affairs institute in London, said “setting the right tone will be crucial”.
He said London – a former colonial power in South Africa – needed to avoid lecturing about Pretoria’s UN voting record on Ukraine while South Africans are still sore about lack of Western support during the Covid crisis.
Climate change, trade and Charles’s vision for the Commonwealth will also likely be high on the agenda, Vandome said.
Ramaphosa was last in London for the state funeral of the queen at Westminster Abbey in September.
His state visit comes more than a decade after the last by a South African leader, when Jacob Zuma came to the UK in 2010.
Ramaphosa arrives on Monday before an official programme starts on Tuesday, including a state banquet at Buckingham Palace.
Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will be in charge of welcoming Ramaphosa and First Lady Tshepo Motsepe but will also see the visiting couple meet other senior royals.
Heir to the throne Prince William and his wife Kate, Princess of Wales, will take him to join Charles and Camilla for a ceremonial military welcome.
Charles’s youngest brother Prince Edward has also been recruited to accompany Ramaphosa to London’s Kew Gardens and a biomedical research centre.
Also on the agenda is an address to lawmakers from both houses of parliament and a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Downing Street.