CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan were in South Africa on Monday for their first overseas tour since the birth of their first child.
Later in the trip, Harry will rekindle memories of the couple’s courtship in Botswana and of his mother Diana in Angola.
Meghan, an American former actress, has had only one official engagement since giving birth to Archie in May.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expected to meet anti-apartheid cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other dignitaries in South Africa, but chose to begin their tour in a township known as the country’s “murder capital”.
Nyanga, about 20 km (12 miles) from Cape Town, recorded more murders – 289 – than any other police precinct in 2018/19.
The royal couple visited The Justice Desk, a group that teaches self-defence and empowerment to vulnerable children, many of whom have suffered trauma – key skills in a place where thousands live cheek-by-jowl in a squalid sea of tin and wood shacks, and where violence is a daily reality.
Harry and Meghan, holding hands, arrived at the non-governmental organisation to the sound of drum beats and ululating, as women and children shouted in excitement.
They then greeted and chatted to women and children, with Meghan giving hugs to some.
“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,” Harry told the crowd.
Speaking at the Nyanga Methodist Church, whose windows are protected by heavy bars against burglars, Theodora Lutuli of The Justice Desk said before Harry and Meghan’s arrival that the organisation was having a huge impact in the community by making children aware of their rights.
“They will tell you this is my body, it belongs to me… That is what they are being taught and we are saying if it starts from there, then we are guaranteed a better future,” said Lutuli, the organisation’s community liaison officer.
SINGING AND DANCING
Ahead of the royal couple’s arrival, a small crowd of around 100 gathered outside the church, singing and dancing to the beat of a marimba band, while a throng of local and international media jostled for positions.
Children, some of them of nursery age, wore white Justice Desk t-shirts bearing the words “I’m not too young to be heard”.
Harry and Meghan will later visit the District 6 museum that honours thousands of families forcibly removed during the apartheid era after the area, adjacent to the Cape Town business district, was declared whites-only and bulldozers moved in to demolish homes.
Harry, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and sixth in line to the throne, has been visiting southern Africa for two decades for holidays and conservation work.
He will travel on alone for a working visit to Botswana, where the couple went shortly after they began dating in July 2016 and returned in 2017 for a romantic getaway to celebrate Meghan’s 36th birthday.
Harry then heads to Angola, visiting the landmine clearance project that featured in some of the most famous photographs of his late mother, Princess Diana.
He ends the solo section of his tour in Malawi, where he will meet President Peter Mutharika, before rejoining Meghan and Archie in South Africa for another township visit, this time near Johannesburg.
Editing by Kevin Liffey, Gareth Jones and Mike Collett-White