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British RoyalsThe Sussexes

Sussexes in South Africa: Day 1 in Cape Town

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex kicked off their 10-day tour of Africa on Monday, arriving in Cape Town, South Africa privately in the morning before heading out to their first three engagements of the tour.

Their first stop was to visit a Mbokodo workshop hosted by The Justice Desk Project in Nyanga which teaches “children about their rights, self-awareness and safety and which provides self-defence classes and female empowerment training to young girls in the community,” per the press briefing.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the Nyanga township in Cape Town, South Africa, on the first day of their Royal Tour. Picture by i-Images / Pool

Founded in 2013, The Justice Desk Project operates in South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and works to promote “the power of Everyday Activism. In order to do this, we empower ordinary people to understand and defend their Human Rights so that they can transform society and create a more just and equal world,” per the Project’s official website.

The Project’s founder, Jessica Dewherst, is a social justice campaigner and human rights activist who has spent her life working with and on behalf of “children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, refugee children, and children who have been victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.”

In addition to working with charities and human rights organisations around the world, Dewhurst was named one of The Queen’s Young Leaders in 2016. The Programme, now complete, aimed to discover, celebrate and support “exceptional young people from across the Commonwealth” who leave “a lasting legacy for Her Majesty The Queen.”

After watching a self-defence demonstration, Harry and Meghan each gave speeches.

Harry said that “[N]o 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.”

He applauded the young people for working to create a better future for themselves, saying that “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.”

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Meghan’s speech was an empowering commentary on the rights of women. She said that the cause “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.”

She continued, “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.”

She concluded:

“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 and I look forward to our time over the next few days together.”

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One of the surprises of the morning came when The Justice Desk Project’s founder said that the grandmothers of Nyanga had chosen a Xhosa name for Archie: Ntsika, which means pillar of strength.

“The reason we chose that was mostly because Archie means the same thing that Ntiska does,” said Dewhurst in an interview with Town & Country. She also explained that traditional names are given to visitors who come to township communities and engage with the residents.

“When you get your traditional name it’s what you will look up to be. So, when they give you a name, it’s your wish for you and your future.”

Before departing, the Duke and Duchess shook hands with the organisers, and one of the dancers took Meghan’s hand and encouraged her to dance, which she did, for a few seconds. Afterwards, a dancer with the Nyanga Arts Centre told the Daily Mail that “Meghan was a good dancer. She’s very nice. Her dancing is fantastic – I’ve been dancing for 10 years.”

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Speaking to People, Theodora Lutuli, a community organiser who was one of the hosts for Harry and Meghan in Nyanga, said that “Meghan was very touched in so many ways” when she talked to some of the young girls in attendance.

“For me, the fact that she could relate and she actually said that ‘I can relate to your stories and I feel what you’ve actually been through,’ that was amazing for me. for that I will always respect and honour her.”

Dewhurst told People that the girls were inspired by the Duchess’s words. “It was incredible. The girls were inspired. She knew the important of being a mentor to the younger generation and was so in tune with what we are doing here.”

She said, “The Duchess said how proud she was of the girls and how amazing she thought they all were.”

Following a break for lunch, Harry and Meghan arrived at the District Six Museum, which houses the history of the area when it was forcibly broken up during the apartheid era. During apartheid, the District was declared an area for whites only, and over 60,000 residents were forcibly removed from the District in the 1960s and 1970s. The Museum opened in 1994.

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex toured the Museum, including an interactive map, and musical and cultural exhibits. They also met with former residents who shared their experiences.

“We heard ex-residents talking about where they used to live, what the experience was like, and how they are still living with the displacement, and how we are trying to move away from that,” Bonita Bennett, the Museum’s director told Vanity Fair.

Bennett said it was an emotional experience for Meghan “because it was very people-centred.”

The couple then sampled some food staples from District Six, including tomato casserole and porring – a pudding made from potato, cream and vanilla.

“We wanted to give them a good experience of the music, the tastes, the smells of District Six, and it was a chance for them to meet some of the different generations from the area,” Bennett told Vanity Fair.

They then walked down the street to their final engagement of the day, a cooking activity with the former residents of District Six at the Homecoming Centre.

Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar, Bennett said that “We spoke about food invoking memories and feelings. They were both engaged, not aloof. Very interested in what everyone had to say.”

Noor Ebrahim, a founder of the Museum, told Hello! that Harry and Meghan were the best visitors he’s ever welcomed. “We’ve had so many prime ministers and presidents here, people like the Obamas, but that was the best visit ever. They were very, very friendly and they mixed with people and that made this visit so special.”

One of the chief missions of this tour, per the Sussexes’ Communications Secretary, Sara Latham’s brief, is to help “raise awareness of the positive partnerships with the United Kingdom, particularly in advance of the UK- Africa Investment Summit in London in 2020.

“Their Royal Highnesses will visit joint UK-African projects that are working to encourage youth employment, entrepreneurship, education and health, as well as prepare young people in the region to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead in these dynamic and growing economies.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex continue their South African visit tomorrow with a day full of engagements including visiting Monwasibi Beach, visiting The Lunch Box Fund, meeting with Dr Thomas Maes, leader of the Commonwealth Litter Programme, visiting Seal Island (Harry on a solo engagement), visiting the Bo Kaap area, and then attending a reception at the British High Commissioner’s residence.

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, particularly the British Royal Family.