The Duke and Duchess of Sussex began their royal tour of South Africa with a visit to the Nyanga township in the Cape, kicking things off with separate speeches condemning the scourge of violence against women.
Former Suits actress and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, spoke to a crowd in South Africa’s ‘murder capital’ of the country, urging women to fight for “respect, dignity and equality” after observing a self-defence class for girls.
In a two-minute speech, she said: “On one personal note, may I just say that while I am here with my husband as a member of the Royal family I want you to know that I am here as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour, and as your sister.”
The Duke and Duchess both hugged children and joined in with dancing prior to their speeches.
Prince Harry spoke of his pride at returning to the country with his wife and son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, as he addressed the need to bring change to South Africa’s cycle of gender-based violence, saying: “No man is born to cause harm to women this is learned behaviour and a cycle that needs to be broken.”
He added: “Your strength is in your spirit, which for me means honouring and protecting my wife, and being a positive role model for my son.”
The Duchess said: “The work that’s being done here is to keep women and children safer, which is needed now more than ever.
“This is an issue that’s been at the forefront of people’s minds here in South Africa, and of course across the globe, particularly over this past month.
“Please know that my husband and I have been closely following what you’ve been experiencing here – as best we can from afar.
“But now that we are with you, we are eager to learn and see first-hand the work that you’re doing, the vital work that you’re doing, and that everything that is being done on the ground is making the great change that you not only need but that you deserve.
“You have welcomed us into this community, have been open and honest with us, both about the dangers women and children face, and about how you are addressing them.
“The rights of women and girls is something that is very close to my heart, and the cause I have spent the majority of my life advocating for because I know that when women are empowered, the entire community flourishes.
“So to be able to meet all of you today who are standing up for what’s right in the face of adversity, I applaud you.
“We are encouraged to hear your President take the next steps to work towards preventing gender-based violence through education and necessary changes to reinforce the values of modern South Africa.
“I do have to say I feel incredibly humbled to be in the presence of all of you as you stand firm in your core values of respect, dignity and equality.
“I read a quote a few weeks ago and it resonated with me as I’ve been watching what’s been happening here and your active efforts. Maya Angelou, the legendary poet and civil rights activist, once said: ‘Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.’
“Now I know it’s not easy and I know it must feel insurmountable at times, but your commitment to what is right gives all of us hope, especially your brothers and sisters here in your community who need you to continue to shine your light brightly.
“Your commitment is inspiring, it is energising and it is extraordinary. You must keep going, you must know that what you’re doing not only matters, it is vital because you are vital.
“And just on one personal note, may I just say that while I am here with my husband as a member of The Royal Family, I want you to know that for me I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour and as your sister.
“I am here with you and I am here for you and I thank you so much for showing my husband and I the spirit of Ubuntu [togetherness] and I look forward to our time over the next few days together.”
Prince Harry also addressed the challenges being faced by South Africans in his speech: “As someone who has visited this amazing country many times, and as someone who regards Cape Town as a uniquely special place in Africa, I wanted to ensure that our first visit as a family – with my wife by my side – focused on the significant challenges facing millions of South Africans, while acknowledging the hope that we feel so strongly here,” he said.
“We are so incredibly grateful to be able to listen and learn from you about the issues that define your daily lives in these communities.
“And that’s what this is, a community. A community where men and women have a vital role to play.
“Touching on what your President said last week, no man is born to cause harm to women, this is learned behaviour, and a cycle that needs to be broken.
“So now, it’s about redefining masculinity, it’s about creating your own footprints for your children to follow in, so that you can make a positive change for the future.
“To me, the real testament of your strength isn’t physical, it’s what’s up here and what’s in here. Your strength is in your spirit, which for me means honouring and protecting my wife, and being a positive role model for my son.”
He added: “Meghan and I are truly inspired by your resilience, your spirit, your sense of community, and your belief in a better future for everyone here.
“I applaud you for the movement. And we know that you haven’t been heard before, but change is coming, now is the time to come together as a community, and we applaud those of you who are leading the way for South Africa’s ongoing transformation.”
The Sussexes’ first official stop was in Nyanga township in Cape Town, where high-level police from the United Kingdom spent weeks scouting the area to ensure the safety of the couple. The location was kept secret until this morning to prevent any security issues around the Royals’ visit to a church and children’s centre.
Meghan was wearing a £69 monochrome dress by Mayamiko, an “ethical and sustainable woman’s wear and lifestyle brand” from Malawi. The company provides training in sewing and business skills to disadvantaged women, many of whom have or care for a child who has HIV.
Jessica Dewhurst, who founded The Justice Desk, an award-winning human rights organisation which is working in the district, said: “To hear her [Meghan] say she was standing her as a woman of colour sent shivers down my spine.
“To be totally honest with you, when I heard that they wanted to say something I just thought it would be a ‘thank you for having us, goodbye’. But they tackled some real issues there. They spoke about gender-based violence and the issues our community is facing.
“What’s also really exciting is that they are watching what is happening in our country and listening to what our president is saying. They are really encouraging us as South Africans to be accountable and to facilitate change.
“I think it’s so fantastic. A lot of people think the Commonwealth is just the Commonwealth, but we have received real support from them for a number of years. This is the cherry on the cake.”
Archie on tour
As they arrived in South Africa, the couple were snapped with baby Archie Mountbatten-Windsor coming down the steps of a British Airways flight into Cape Town with the baby well wrapped up for his journey.
Cradled in his mother’s arms, Archie wore a bobble hat and warm sleep suit to keep out the strong wind. The royal couple waved to well-wishers as they disembarked before travelling to their accommodation to settle Archie in.
Buckingham Palace has acknowledged the difficulties of organising an intrepid tour that takes in four countries in ten days. The Duchess and Archie will remain in South Africa while the Duke flies to Botswana, Angola and Malawi before rejoining his wife in Johannesburg at the end of the trip.
Factoring in Archie has added to the complications, the Palace admitted on Sunday. A spokesperson said: “We have an extra special small passenger to make things more lively.”
Archie is expected to feature at some point in the tour, but Royal watchers may have to wait until day three on Wednesday when the Duchess visits the mothers2mothers charity, which trains and employs women with HIV.
Archie’s hand-me-down clothes and toys are expected to be donated to the Cape Town charity and he will be looked after by a nanny when the Duke and Duchess are occupied with their official duties.