Former premier of Limpopo Ngoako Ramatlhodi was thrust in the limelight this week after former president Jacob Zuma alleged that he was an apartheid spy. Picture: Dimpho Maja/ African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Former premier of Limpopo Ngoako Ramatlhodi was thrust in the limelight this week after former president Jacob Zuma alleged that he was an apartheid spy.

Zuma made the allegation at his much-anticipated testimony before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo at the Commission on State Capture on Monday.

Ramatlhodi has since dismissed the allegation and challenged Zuma to go for a lie detector test.

Born in 1955, Ramatlhodi cut his political teeth in student politics.

He was a founder member of the Azanian Students' Organisation, later known as South African Students' Congress.

According to the People's Assembly website, Ramatlhodi went into exile in Lesotho in 1980, where he continued with his studies.

He holds a Bachelor of Jurisprudence and a Bachelor of Law from the National University of Lesotho, which he obtained in 1984 and 1986 respectively.

He also holds a Masters of Science in International Relations from the University of Zimbabwe.

Ramatlhodi, who was admitted as an advocate to the Bar of Lesotho in 1988, served as head of the ANC Regional Political and Military Council of Zimbabwe Mission between 1986 and 1988.

He later became the political secretary and speech writer for the then ANC President Oliver Tambo in Zambia from 1990 until 1992.

"In this capacity, he served as the secretary of the ANC Control Commission, a body responsible for the coordination of the entire liberation movement's activities and served former President Nelson Mandela in the same capacity." 

Ramatlhodi was among the exiled comrades who returned to the country in 1991 following the unbanning of political parties.

On his return to the country, he worked at the University of the North as deputy registrar, executive Assistant to the rector and lecturer in Public International Law from 1992 to 1994.

After the 1994 election, Ramatlhodi became the first premier for Limpopo and served two full terms until 2004.

He also served as ANC Limpopo chairperson from 1991 until 1996 and later served as head of the ANC elections committee in 2008.

Ramatlhodi was among the Tripartite Alliance leaders who campaigned for Zuma to take over from former president Thabo Mbeki.

This after an apparent fallout with Mbeki amid reports that he was investigated by the defunct Scorpions in what was believed to be move to thwart his chances to become the National Director of Public Prosecutions.

When Zuma became the president, Ramatlhodi served as an MP and later held various cabinet positions until he resigned as public representative in 2017.

In the executive, he started off as a deputy minister of correctional services, then became a minister of mineral resources and minister of public service and administration.

He was axed from the cabinet in March 2017 along with others such as Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.

"Ramatlhodi claimed in 2017 that Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane and chief executive Brian Molefe requested that he terminate Glencor's mining licenses in an apparent ruse to facilitate the sale of its Optimum coal mine to the Gupta family," according to Wikipedia.

When he appeared before the Zondo Commision last year, Ramatlhodi said Zuma "auctioned" South Africa off to the Guptas.

This week Zuma dismissed his claims and in turn, accused him of being a spy who was recruited while studying in Lesotho.

“What made comrade Ngoako to behave in the way he did here saying that I auctioned the country? He was carrying out an instruction. Ramatlhodi was recruited when he was a student in Lesotho to be a spy,” Zuma said on Monday.

Zuma charged that he had known for many years but had thought that he would change.

Ramatlhodi has rubbished Zuma’s testimony saying he is ready to go under a lie detector. 

"We can meet before the commission. The commission can press both of us as to who is telling the truth and who is lying,” he said.

Since the spy claims emerged, the MKMVA national council has come to Ramatlhodi defence, saying Zuma was irresponsible and attempted  to avoid answering questions at the inquiry.

Political Bureau