Bloemfontein - Cyril Ramaphosa received 3 018 votes out of a possible 3 977 in the ANC’s top six leadership elections on Tuesday – more than the 2 983 that Zuma got. Even Zuma’s detractors concede that Ramaphosa will be good for the ANC and, by corollary, the country.
His re-entry into the political arena has been broadly welcomed, even among those who supported a change of leadership in the ANC.
It was being speculated that Ramaphosa, deputy chairman of the National Planning Commission and a tough talker capable of getting things done, would help drive the alignment of said commission.
But that would assume he becomes deputy president of the country as well as of the ANC – which is not a given, although Motlanthe is expected to stand down early next year.
One question mark was whether Ramaphosa would be willing, or able, to sort out his business interests in a way that would prevent any conflict of interest – a requirement for those who serve in government. He is also not an MP, although by adjusting party lists he could be sworn in early next year.
Among the ANC rank and file, Ramaphosa has endeared himself as someone capable of enforcing party discipline – it was he who sealed the fate of expelled youth league leader Julius Malema by refusing to set aside his expulsion from the party.
Markets heaved a sigh of relief on the news of his election to the second-highest post in the ANC on Tuesday.
After leaving politics in 1996, Ramaphosa built a business empire that makes him one of the richest men in the country. It is expected he will be able to mend bridges between the government and business, a relationship that has become wary and distrustful.
His ability to speak a language understood by investors and the business community will be a big plus, as this is one of the areas the Zuma government is considered weakest.
Business acumen is not the only string to Ramaphosa’s bow. He is known within the ANC and its alliance partners as a seasoned political leader who earned his stripes in the rough and tumble of the union movement during the struggle against apartheid.
The reputation he earned for being a skilled negotiator and strategic thinker made Ramaphosa a natural choice when someone was needed to steer the tricky talks that led to the political agreement that marked the beginning of the end of apartheid.
But recently – as speculation mounted that he would throw his hat into the ANC leadership ring – Ramaphosa was caught up in bad publicity that sought to portray him as someone who had sold out on the working class and forgotten the plight of the poor.
Then came Marikana. At the commission of inquiry into the fatal events there, e-mails Ramaphosa had sent appealing to government ministers to take action were aired and used to paint him as a cold-hearted capitalist.
Despite this, Ramaphosa has prevailed.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Tuesday noted Ramaphosa’s unionist background as a founder secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, but warned that labour expected him to focus on improving the life of the working class, rather than a wealthy business elite.
“He is the public face of business. But there are 80 people in the NEC (national executive committee) and there is the top six and the membership is dominated by the working class. We hope he has the discipline to understand he represents a broad church which is dominated by the working class. At this conference, the issue and the lingo is the radical transformation of economic policies. He must target that,” Vavi said.