Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II visited the South African Parliament in 1995, after the country’s transition to democracy. Through her role as the head of the Commonwealth nations, South Africa could rejoin that group of nations.
27 years ago, Queen Elizabeth returned to South Africa. Former President Nelson Mandela was held in high esteem by the Queen.
During her address to the Members of Parliament, the Queen said that she had always wanted to return to South Africa, which she first visited as a 21-year-old princess.
“That wish has never deserted me….through half-century, during which you’ve seen turmoil and tragedy. now though you have become one nation, whose spirit of reconciliation is a shining example to the world. Our relationship, like between many old friends, has at times been tempestuous, our people have fought against each other, as they have the common enemy…but we can together feel pride in the role Britains and South Africans played in our respective countries.”
Members of Parliament, like Inkatha Freedom Party stalwart, Koos van der Merwe remembers the day. “We had drinks together and also had lunch with her. She approached me and asked questions about old South Africa and I explained to her. while talking to her, I realised she was the woman I met in my life with the most beautiful smile, I also saw that she was so impressed with the way I addressed her…that I hoped she would make me a Sir. Can you imagine me being called Sir Koos?”
Former Democratic Alliance leader, Tony Leon, described her as an extraordinary person. “She was an extraordinary presence, she was live, distant, regal all the things you would expect… slightly less conversational than her husband… I think the extraordinary thing about her visit to SA in 1995 was there was the absence of 48 years in 1947 and that one and of course, it meant never came to SA during apartheid, although she forged relations commonwealth and had close relationships with many heads of state on the continent. I think it was an example of her soft power, all in all, a memorable visit with an extraordinary person.”
African Christian Democratic Party chief whip, Steve Swart, fondly remembers the day the Queen addressed Parliament. “She was the first British monarch to address SA parliament since 1974 she paid tribute to past apartheid SA as forceful regional stability and growth. in welcoming SA to the Commonwealth the previous year, said you have become one nation whose spirit of recon is an example to the world and I’ve come to see for myself what is little short of a miracle.”
Pan Africanist Congress of Azania leader Mzwanele Nyhontso was less flattering. “PAC of Azania can’t sing praises for a monarchy that engineered trans-Atlantic slave trade, that resulted in the genocide of well over 12 million Africans in forced transit and illegal extraction of excess of 20 million compatriots to establish slave trade that robbed the continent of its labour, to build economies of Western hemisphere whose power continues to dominate the world unjustly today.”
VIDEO | South Africans express mixed feelings about the passing of Queen Elizabeth II: