The recent visit of the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, to South Africa has garnered attention and speculation. However, the South African government has clarified the purpose and context of the visit.
Formal Correspondence with South African Government
The UAE government sent formal diplomatic correspondence to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, indicating the intention of the President to visit South Africa in a private capacity. The correspondence also revealed that the President and his large entourage would be staying at a game reserve he owns in the Eastern Cape.
Hospitality and Support Services
The South African government extended hospitality and support services to the President and his delegation, in accordance with international norms and practices for hosting Heads of State or Government and other dignitaries. Members of the entourage who needed visas were granted them by the Department of Home Affairs, while relevant government departments and agencies provided other necessary support services such as transport and security.
Conformance to International Diplomatic Standards
The visit adheres to international diplomatic standards and South African laws. Private visits by Heads of State or Government, including for medical treatment, are not uncommon in South Africa. The visit is an endorsement of the country’s attractiveness as a destination and a partner for investment, trade, and tourism, and the South African government welcomes it.
Positive Development for Both Countries
The visit presents an opportunity for South Africa and the Eastern Cape to benefit from continued engagement with the UAE, which is a source of outbound investment around the world. Therefore, the visit is a positive development for both countries, and it builds on their longstanding diplomatic and economic relations.