Meet Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s new president

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, was on Thursday appointed the fifth president of the Republic of South Africa. His appointment came after Jacob Zuma bowed to pressure from  the African National Congress (ANC)  and resigned as president of the country. The new president is also seen as the ANC’s best chance of retaining power in 2019. His appointment has led to a lot of growth in the economy which includes the strengthening of the rand and South Africa’s Bond.

Ramaphosa is a member of the Venda tribe who grew up in Soweto. He is the second of the three children of retired Policeman, Samuel Ramaphosa. Unlike Zuma, Ramaphosa received formal Education and even obtained a doctorate degree. According to BBC, he is a lover of fast cars, vintage wine, trout fishing and game farming.

He attended Tshilidzi Primary School and Sekano Ntoane High School in Soweto. He graduated from Mphaphuli High school in Sibasa from there he proceeded to study law at the University of the North (Turfloop). After obtaining a degree in law, he joined the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) where he became an advisor in the legal department. He was also a founder of the National Union of Mineworkers and was made the first General Secretary of the Union. This brought him to the limelight in the trade union movement as a formidable leader in the struggle against apartheid. He was imprisoned several times for his involvement in the apartheid struggle. Ramaphosa also holds honorary doctorates from a number of institutions, including the University of South Africa and the University of Massachusetts.

In 1991, he was elected the first Secretary General of the ANC and led the negotiation team of the African National Congress (ANC) to negotiate the end of apartheid with the National Party government. He also participated in drafting of the South African constitution. He left politics for business in 1996 and made a big comeback in 2012 where he was elected the deputy president of the ANC. He also served as the Deputy president of South Africa from 2014 to 2018 when Zuma resigned. He is currently the 14th President of the ANC.

When Ramaphosa left active politics in 1996 for business, he focused so much on building a business empire which he achieved before coming back to politics in 2012. He is known to be one of the richest people in South Africa with an estimated net worth of  over $450 million. He has interests in the various sectors across the South African economy which includes telecommunication, finance, FMCG, Mining, Real estate, oil and gas and power. He has held several key positions in different organizations like McDonald’s South Africa, MTN holdings, Southern African Vehicle Registration System (Proprietary) Limited, SAB Miller PLC, Lonmin and Alexander Forbes Group Holdings Limited.

He holds position in Global organization such as the World Economic Forum,  Commonwealth Business Council and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Ramaphosa is seen to have an easy going nature and charisma which helped propel him to his political position and feat. He earned the trust and confidence of many which included the late president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela loved Ramaphosa so much that it was known by so many. Nelson Mandela saw him as a young man who also believed in his vision and could carry on after him. Nelson Mandela anointed Ramaphosa to take over from him as the president of the country by being his Deputy but it was thwarted by the party. The ANC wanted Thabo Mbeki, the protegee of Oliver Tambo, South African anti-apartheid politician and revolutionary who served as President of the ANC from 1967 to 1991. Ramaphosa withdrew from his active political life when he could not deal with Mbeki becoming the president of the ANC. This was seen by many as a flaw in his character.

In 2001 Ramaphosa  together with Mathew Phosa and Tokyo Sexwale  were accused of trying to plot to overthrow Mbeki. While Sexwale and Phosa expressed  their anger at Mbeki and his followers coming up with such story, Ramaphosa did not say a word about it but he just stayed clear of the the controversy.

However, during the time of his withdrawal from active politics he was called to come back to the ANC when Mbeki and Zuma’s brawl was hot but he  indicated that he would come back to the ANC when he was ready and he did not want to contest for it.

Controversies involving Ramaphosa

Just like every other politician Ramaphosa’s life was not all rosy all through.  He was involved in some controversies but he has never been indicted for any illegal activities.

His controversial business dealings include acting as Chairperson for the MTN Group during the MTN Irancell scandal when a disgruntled former employee, Mr Chris Kilowan, alleged that the organisation had bribed officials in Iran. Although the Hoffmann Commission exonerated MTN and found that Mr Kilowan who had given two statements in arbitration proceedings brought by Turkcell against the Islamic Republic of Iran and a deposition in the United States proceedings against MTN was in the words of the committee ‘shown to be a fantasist and a conspiracy theorist’.

Ramaphosa was also in a controversy that involved his joint venture with Anglo–Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company, Glencore and allegations of benefitting illegally from coal deals with Eskom which he has persistently denied. During this period Glencore was in the public spotlight for its tendentious business activities involving Tony Blair in the Middle East.

Due to his employment on the board of directors of the British-owned mining company Lonmin in 2012 he is also known for his connection with a massacre that happened at the Lonmin Marikana platinum mine.  A strike at the Marikana platinum mine ended with police shooting dead 34 strikers. However before the incident happened it was reported that he had called on the authorities to take actions against the Marikana miners which he called “dastardly criminal” conduct.

According to the BBC during his testimony at an inquiry into the massacre protesters abused him shouting “blood on his hands, Ramaphosa must go”.

Last year Ramaphosa admitted and regretted his involvement in the act and said that it could have been avoided if contingency plans had been made prior to the labour strike.

Following these controversies and his appointment as the President of South Africa it is pertinent to ask if he will restore south Africa’s politics and economy. People are also asking if there be hope for the mining sector the country.

Ramaphosa is faced with the task of reviving the South African economy as well as solving the issue of water shortage in Capetown South Africa.