, French officials are hoping Zuma will use his influence within the African Union to help smooth preparations for a peacekeeping force to be deployed in the troubled state.
In general, France and South Africa have enjoyed warm relations, partly born of the prominent role France played in attempts to isolate the white-minority apartheid regime and close links between their ruling parties — the Socialists and the African National Congress.
France’s First Lady Valerie Trierweiler will meet a lesbian couple and gay rights groups on Monday, as well as one of Zuma’s four wives.
In the evening Zuma will host a state dinner for the French delegation — including eight ministers and 20 business leaders.
On Tuesday, Hollande will visit a plant owned by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which manufactures its anti-retroviral and anti-TB drugs in South Africa.
He will then head to Soweto, the Johannesburg township which was a hotbed of resistance against white minority rule, where he will visit anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela’s former home.
Aides said this was a way of paying homage to the ailing 95-year-old statesman, who is too ill to receive official visitors.
On the economic front, aides to Hollande said some agreements on energy and transport were in the final stages of negotiation but were not sure to be signed during the visit.
French companies are notably awaiting a decision on whether South Africa will go ahead with plans to build more nuclear power stations.