Thu. Nov 14th, 2019

How Ramaphosa rose from activism to business and finally, power

cyril ramaphosa who is president of south africaCyril Ramaphosa’s career has taken some intriguing segues on his journey to South African president.

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Over his 66 years, Cyril Ramaphosa has experienced the poverty of Soweto, jail for fighting apartheid, trade union activism, fabulous wealth – and now the taste of election victory.

Election results: Live national leader board 2019

Ramaphosa, who became president last year through internal ANC
politics, won a popular mandate as the country’s leader, opening the latest
chapter of a career intertwined with the birth of modern South Africa.

When Nelson Mandela walked out of jail in 1990, a youthful
Ramaphosa was standing beside him as the world looked on.

It soon became clear that Mandela saw him as a protege, and Ramaphosa went on to lead talks to end the white-minority rule and to help write the new constitution.

But after missing out on becoming Mandela’s successor as
president, he instead became a hugely wealthy businessman through stakes in
McDonalds, Coca-Cola and in the mining and telecommunications sectors.

In 2012, his image was badly tarnished when police killed 34
striking workers at the Marikana platinum mine, operated by London-listed
Lonmin, where he was then a non-executive director.

Ramaphosa had called for a crackdown on the strikers, whom
he accused of “dastardly criminal” behaviour.

He returned to politics to become Jacob Zuma’s vice
president in 2014, often drawing criticism for failing to speak out against
corruption and government mismanagement.

Renowned for his patience and strategic thinking, Ramaphosa
narrowly beat off pro-Zuma rivals to take over the leadership of the ANC in
2017 and then claim the presidency when Zuma was forced out last year.

Ramaphosa, who is relaxed and quietly spoken in public,
enjoys a broad support base that crosses some of South Africa’s sharp racial
and class divides.

But he still faces strong opposition from factions within
the ANC, and his renowned guile and backroom skills will be needed in the years

“We have made mistakes but we have been sorry about those mistakes and we are saying our people should reinvest their confidence in us,” Ramaphosa said as he voted, delivering a rebuke to the Zuma era of ANC government.

Thuma Mina

Ramaphosa was born on 17 November 1952 in Johannesburg’s Soweto township — a centre of the anti-apartheid struggle — to a police sergeant and a domestic worker.

He took up activism while studying law in the 1970s, and
spent 11 months in solitary confinement.

Mandela once described Ramaphosa as one of the most gifted
leaders of the “new generation”, the young campaigners who filled the
void left by their jailed elders.

After studying, Ramaphosa turned to trade unionism — one of
the few legal ways of protesting against the white-minority regime. 

He founded the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in 1982 which grew to have 300 000 members and led massive strikes in 1987 that shook the foundations of white rule.

Ramaphosa’s destiny seemed pre-ordained. 

But in 1999, his hopes of winning the top job were dashed
when he failed to clinch the nomination of the ruling African National Congress
(ANC) to succeed Mandela.

Ramaphosa bowed out of politics and became one of the richest businessmen on the continent – reaching number 42 on the Forbes list of Africa’s wealthiest people in 2015 with a net worth of $450 million (400 million euros).

He developed an expensive hobby as a breeder of rare cattle,
and owns several farms.

Ramaphosa returned to the political fray in 2012 when he was
elected to the ANC’s number two post. Two years later, he became deputy
president of the nation.

Seen as a pro-business moderate, Ramaphosa has seldom been the target of direct graft accusations himself – but his political ambivalence and vast wealth have led to criticism.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic
Alliance party, said Ramaphosa’s acquiescence made him “at best a silent
deputy president, and at worst a complicit one”.

Ramaphosa has four children with his second wife Tshepo
Motsepe, a doctor, who is the sister of fellow tycoon Patrice Motsepe.

Ramaphosa’s mastery of political strategy came to a climax
last year. He gradually sidelined Zuma’s backers and finally forced his

“Ramaphosa has no association with any of the
corruption scandals that have plagued South Africa,” wrote his biographer
Ray Hartley in “The Man Who Would Be King”.

“But the years he spent at Zuma’s side, playing the
‘inside game’ suggest he is more comfortable as a powerful insider than as a
radical reformer.”

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