By Moshoeshoe Monare

After two days of silence amid intense media speculation about his presidential ambitions, businessman and ANC national executive member Cyril Ramaphosa has done what other perceived presidential hopefuls have done - dismissed the suggestion.

In a careful, brief statement - issued by his company, Shanduka Group - Ramaphosa said he had no interest in being a candidate for the presidency of the ANC. But he did not say anything about the presidency of the country.

Following reports by two Sunday papers, City Press and Rapport, that quoted business people close to the former trade union leader as saying he was preparing the ground to launch his candidacy, Ramaphosa said he believed it was necessary to set the record straight.

"The reports are pure speculation with no factual basis," his statement said.

"I have not engaged, nor sought to engage others on my behalf, in any campaign with respect to the presidency of the ANC and have no interest in being a candidate.

"Like all ANC members, I am bound by the discipline, traditions, organisational culture and processes of the organisation. I have not, and will not, act in a manner contrary to these practices."

The weekend reports claimed Ramaphosa had the backing of former president Nelson Mandela and key business people.

Thabo Mbeki, whose second term as president of the country ends in 2009 and who legally may not serve a third term, has said he would consider staying on as leader of the ANC beyond 2007.

Ramaphosa is not the only senior ANC figure to have denied considering becoming a candidate for the presidency. Others include:

  • ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma, who issued a statement in 2001 saying he had no intention of challenging Mbeki for the presidency of the ANC or of the country.

    But when asked about his ambitions shortly after he was acquitted of rape earlier this year, Zuma said he had never refused tasks given to him by the ANC and "I'm not about to do that now".

  • ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe, who refused to be associated with such speculation after Business Day ran a front-page story last year that said he was a possible contender for nomination as a presidential candidate.

  • Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was believed to have been the first to have been approached by Mbeki to succeed Zuma, her former husband, as deputy president. She denied this was so.

  • Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who has repeatedly dismissed suggestions that she could be the first woman presidential candidate. Mbeki has said several times it is not impossible that a woman might become president.