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The rise and falls of the ANC’s re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa

Re-elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Re-elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 20, 2022


Known for his multiparty negotiation skills, business acumen, political drive, and convening the Constitutional Assembly to draft the new Constitution during the transition from apartheid to a democratic South Africa, Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa rose to the top steadily.

However, the elected president of the ANC – twice over – may have risen to the top but he has had his fair share of scandals with many a times the respected man falling from his grace.

Ramaphosa hails from Soweto, born on 17 November 1952.

His credentials for the Struggle against apartheid can be traced to his activism in student politics at the University of the North, which is now the University of Limpopo.

After completing his degree in 1981, he joined an independent trade union movement, the Council of Unions of South Africa (Cusa).

When the government and the Chamber of Mines announced their decision to allow black mine workers to join unions, Cusa propelled Ramaphosa into establishing the National Union of Mine-workers (NUM) in 1982, which mobilised extensively against oppression.

His achievements in the NUM include growing the union’s membership from 6 000 in 1982 to 300 000 in 1992.

One of the major scandals that hangs above his head, is the tragic incident that took place in Marikana in 2012.

The police are accused of shooting down 34 miners who were on a wage strike at the Lonmin mine located in Marikana, Rustenburg, on the afternoon of August 16, 2012.

This allegedly occurred as a result of Ramaphosa, a director of the mine at the time, requesting "concomitant" action against the miners in protest in an email to former police minister Nathi Mthethwa.

Following a long and intensive history in student and trade-union politics, and playing a leading role in the Mass Democratic Movement that preceded the unbanning of the ANC, Ramaphosa hit the headlines as he introduced Nelson Mandela to the thousands of supporters outside the Cape Town City Hall, where Nelson Mandela delivered his first public speech in 30 years.

In July 1991, the ANC held its first conference after the unbanning of the liberation movements.

Ramaphosa was elected secretary general of the ANC.

He became part of the leadership core that emerged from this conference with a mandate to negotiate a new Constitution with the then National Party (NP) government.

In this regard, he rose to prominence for his role as head of the ANC delegation that negotiated the end of apartheid with the government in November 1991.

After the first democratic election in 1994, he became a member of Parliament and was later elected chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly.

When he retreated from active politics in 1997, Ramaphosa became a director of New Africa Investments Limited. His business ventures included an owner of McDonald's South Africa, chair of the board for MTN, member of the board for Lonmin, and founder of the Shanduka Group – a company he founded, which invested in mineral resources, energy, real estate, banking, insurance, and telecoms (SEACOM).

His other non-executive directorships included Macsteel Holdings, Alexander Forbes, SABMiller, Lonmin, Anglo American, and Standard Bank.

Ramaphosa's various shareholdings made him one of South Africa's richest men.

During a visit to Uganda in 2004, Ramaphosa became interested in the Ankole breed of cattle. As of August 2017, Ramaphosa had 100 Ankole breeding cows at his Ntaba Nyoni farm in Mpumalanga.

He returned to politics in December 2012 at the ANC's 53rd National Conference and served as the deputy president of South Africa under President Jacob Zuma from 2014 to 2018.

He was also chairman of the National Planning Commission.

At the ANC's 54th National Conference on 18 December 2017, he was elected president of the ANC. Two months later, the day after Zuma resigned on 14 February 2018, the National Assembly (NA) elected Ramaphosa as president of South Africa.

The president was accused of using the CR17 campaign funds for personal gain.

The EFF petitioned the Gauteng High Court to have the CR17 bank statements unsealed in March 2021.

Former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng claimed that Ramaphosa benefited directly from the funds raised for the campaign.

Most recently, retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo’s three-member Independent Section 89 Panel has found that Ramaphosa had violated his oath of office in handling the break-in and theft of a huge amount of money in US dollars at his Phala Phala game farm.

The panel found that Ramaphosa had committed four serious violations and that there is prima facie evidence against him.

The ANC used its majority in the House to vote against the adoption of the Section 89 independent panel report on the Phala Phala scandal.

In total 214 voted no, 148 voted yes while two people indicated they were abstaining from the vote, with National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula saying that the motion for the impeachment process would not continue.

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