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The South African Embassy in London, known as South Africa House, is a prominent landmark building on Trafalgar Square, London. It not only houses the offices of the High Commissioner, it also is home to the South African consulate. Here are some interesting facts about the South African Embassy, London:
 

The origins of the South African Embassy in London

South Africa House was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and built by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts in the 1930s. Sir Herbert Baker was an English architect who is remembered for being a dominant force in South African architecture, having designed many of South Africa’s iconic buildings including Groote Schuur hospital and Wynberg Boys’ High School in Cape Town, St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown and the Union Buildings in Pretoria – just to mention a few!

 

South Africa house was opened in 1933 and has been the centre of South Africa’s diplomatic presence in the UK ever since. It even housed Prime Minister Jan Smuts, when he lived in London arranging South Africa’s World War II plans.

 

When South Africa became a Republic in 1961, South Africa House officially became an Embassy rather than a High Commission and became a focal point for protests during the 1980s, when protesters gathered outside its famous façade to protest against South Africa’s policy of apartheid. South Africa house was even set alight, but not badly damaged, during the 1990 Poll Tax Riots in London.

 

 

A move from an Embassy to a High Commission

When South Africa held its first fully free democratic elections on 27 April 1994, it marked a change in South Africa’s political relations with London and 4 days later South Africa re-joined the Commonwealth and the building once again became a High Commission – 33 years to the day it had withdrawn and become a Republic!

 

A focal point of South African culture

South Africans can be proud of their prominent landmark in London. South Africa House is no longer a focal point of unrest but rather a beautiful building that is a testament to the solid relationship between South Africa and the UK. In 1996 Nelson Mandela first appeared on the balcony of South Africa house when he visited the UK on his official state visit. This famous moment was repeated when he appeared once again on the balcony in 2001 to commemorate the seventh anniversary of Freedom Day – the day when apartheid officially came to an end.

 

 

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