Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s Nice Negotiator, Elected President

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 15 (Reuters) – After weeks of tortuous discussions to persuade scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma to step down as head of state, South Africa’s nice negotiator, Cyril Ramaphosa, has fulfilled his long-held ambition to steer the nation.

Deputy president since 2014, Ramaphosa has been the nation’s dominant politician since he changed Zuma as chief of the ruling African Nationwide Congress in December.

However he needed to strike a high-quality stability between making use of strain on Zuma, a 75-year-old anti-apartheid veteran, and affording him a dignified exit.

Dealing with waning electoral help for his occasion, Ramaphosa wanted to keep away from alienating ANC members nonetheless loyal to Zuma regardless of the financial stagnation and sleaze allegations that tainted his 9 years in energy.

Ramaphosa, 65, used the identical painstaking negotiating technique he employed in talks to finish white minority rule, when he negotiated on behalf of the ANC. He ignored frustration from some sections of the media and opposition events who’ve been howling for Zuma to go for years.

Ramaphosa’s dealmaking expertise have been obvious for many years.

Nelson Mandela turned to the previous commerce union chief when he wanted a tenacious negotiator to steer talks to finish apartheid. The profitable conclusion of these talks paved the best way for Mandela to brush to energy in 1994 as head of the victorious ANC after South Africa’s first democratic vote.

Mandela needed Ramaphosa to be his inheritor however was pressured into choosing Thabo Mbeki by a gaggle of ANC leaders who had fought apartheid from exile.

It has taken greater than twenty years for Ramaphosa to get one other likelihood to run the nation.

“Ramaphosa’s ambition for the presidency has been clear by his complete grownup life. He was fairly clearly wounded by his marginalization within the Mbeki interval,” mentioned Anthony Butler, a politics professor who has written a biography of Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa faces a serious problem in turning the nation spherical. However his pledges to spice up progress and battle corruption have gone down nicely with overseas buyers and ANC members who thought Zuma’s dealing with of the economic system might price the occasion dearly in a parliamentary election subsequent yr.

Monetary markets have seen a “Ramaphosa rally” since he defeated Zuma’s most popular successor and ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in final yr’s ANC management contest.


In contrast to Zuma, Ramaphosa was not pushed into exile for opposing apartheid, which among the occasion’s extra hardline members maintain in opposition to him.

He fought the injustices of white minority rule from inside South Africa, most prominently by defending the rights of black miners as chief of the Nationwide Union of Mineworkers.

A member of the comparatively small Venda ethnic group, Ramaphosa was capable of overcome divisions that generally constrain members of the bigger Zulu and Xhosa teams.

A large miners’ strike led by Ramaphosa’s NUM in 1987 taught enterprise that “Cyril was a power to be reckoned with,” mentioned Michael Spicer, a former govt at Anglo American.

“He has a shrewd understanding of males and energy and is aware of the way to get what he desires from a state of affairs,” Spicer mentioned.

The significance of Ramaphosa’s contribution to the talks to finish apartheid is such that commentators have referred to them in two distinct phases: BC and AC, Earlier than Cyril and After Cyril.

Ramaphosa additionally performed an essential function in drafting South Africa’s post-apartheid structure.


After lacking out on turning into Mandela’s deputy, Ramaphosa withdrew from energetic political life, switching to enterprise.

His funding car Shanduka – Venda for “change” – grew quickly and bought stakes in mining corporations, cell phone operator MTN and McDonald’s South African franchise.

Phuti Mahanyele, a former chief govt at Shanduka, recalled that Ramaphosa required employees to contribute to charitable initiatives geared toward bettering entry to training for the underprivileged.

By the point Ramaphosa offered out of Shanduka in 2014, the agency was price greater than eight billion rand (now $685 million), making him one in every of South Africa’s 20 richest individuals.

To his supporters, Ramaphosa’s enterprise success equips him for the duty of turning round an economic system grappling with 28 p.c unemployment and credit standing downgrades.

Pravin Gordhan, a revered former finance minister, instructed Reuters that Ramaphosa’s election as ANC chief was sufficient to vary “the entire narrative about South Africa’s economic system” inside three months.

However Ramaphosa has his detractors too.

He was a non-executive director at Lonmin when negotiations to halt a violent wildcat strike at its Marikana platinum mine in 2012 led to police taking pictures 34 strikers lifeless.

An inquiry subsequently absolved Ramaphosa of guilt. However some households of the victims nonetheless blame him for urging the authorities to intervene.

“My conscience is that I participated in attempting to cease additional deaths from occurring,” Ramaphosasaid of the incident.

Others have warned Ramaphosa that he mustn’t take their help with no consideration.

“Cyril has bought to be wiser than President Zuma,” mentioned Sdumo Dlamini, president of South African commerce union federation COSATU and a member of the ANC’s nationwide govt.

“He leads as a part of a collective, and we have to see a severe turnaround to handle the challenges of joblessness and inequality, that are enormous.”

(Reporting by Alexander Successful; modifying by Giles Elgood)

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