PARIS – French President Francois Hollande on Monday assured his visiting South African counterpart Jacob Zuma that the British vote to leave the European Union won’t affect economic relations between the EU and his country.
Speaking at the Elysee with Zuma by his side, Hollande said Monday that a British exit from the EU, or Brexit, “will have no impact” on the relations between the bloc and South Africa, a former British colony.
Hollande said that “on the contrary, we are going to strengthen our commercial relations in order for South Africa to be a key partner for the EU.”
Zuma, on a state visit to France, said that while Brexit holds implications “well beyond the borders” of the UK and the rest of the EU, he and Hollande have committed to “strengthening co-operation on regional and global peace and security as well as global governance issues.”
On Tuesday, Zuma is to travel to the Somme region in northern France and attend a centennial commemoration of the World War I battle of Delville Wood, sometimes renamed the “Devil Wood.” In July 1916, hundreds of South African soldiers were killed there in less than a week, according to the official website of the memorial of “Bois Delville,” the wood near the town of Longueval where the fierce battle took place.
Hollande said France “will never forget the courage and sacrifice” of the South African soldiers during WWI.
“This is why it was very important that, for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Delville Wood, there could be a Memorial to mark this story, this sacrifice and the link between South Africa and France,” the French president said.
The Elysee said the memorial has been transformed in order to pay tribute to all of the South African soldiers fallen during the war “without any distinction of race.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s commemoration, Zuma said the South African Delville Wood Memorial has been transformed in order to ensure that the historical role played by black South Africans who fell on European soil during WWI and WWII is granted the same necessary recognition as that given to white South Africans.”
Alex Turnbull contributed to the report