It’s been a busy few days for Cyril Ramaphosa: Inaugurated as South Africa’s 5th democratic president on Thursday (February 15th), first State of the Nation Address the very next day, and on Sunday the Commander-in-Chief addressed the Armed Forces Inter-Faith service at Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre in Kimberly . . . that was just the first four days in his new role as President of the Republic of South Africa. But who is Cyril Ramaphosa?
Ramaphosa became involved in student politics while studying law at the University of Limpopo. Under the Terrorism Act he was detained twice and held in solitary confinement. After being released he continued his studies through the University of South Africa (UNISA), graduating with his B. Proc Degree in 1981. His political career began in earnest back in 1982, when he stepped up to lead the newly-formed National Union of Mineworkers. During the Apartheid years Ramaphosa remained focused on his trade union work, rising through the ranks to become the first General Secretary of the union, a position he held until he resigned in June 1991, following his election as Secretary General of the African National Congress (ANC).
Following his election to the inner-circle of the ANC, he became the head of the ANC negotiation team and lead the negotiations with the ruling National Party government to bring an end to apartheid. With the historic democratic elections of 1994, Nelson Mandela became president and Ramaphosa became a member of parliament. Shortly after, he was also elected as the chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly and played a key role in the government of national unity.
Ramaphosa was Mandela’s choice to succeed him as the president of the ANC and, hopefully, also as the next president of South Africa. However, the ANC preferred Thabo Mbeki over Ramaphosa. He then resigned from all his political positions and moved into the private sector. Over the next few years Ramaphosa enjoyed immense business success and amassed a $550,000,000 – five hundred and fifty million US dollars – fortune, according to CNN and Forbes.
Ramaphosa re-entered full-time politics as the Deputy President of the ANC (2012) and the Deputy President of South Africa (2014). In the same year he was appointed Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly and Chairman of the National Planning Commission. In December 2017, Ramaphosa was elected as the president of the ANC, defeating President Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has long been groomed as President Zuma’s successor.
As if that wasn’t a big enough political upset, South Africa saw the ANC issuing a no-confidence vote against President Zuma early in 2018. It was only a matter of days before Zuma resigned and Ramaphosa was elected, unopposed, to succeed him.
“Our prosperity as a nation depends on our ability to take full advantage of rapid technological change,” Ramaphosa stated in his State of the Nation Address. Along with this, he also needs to grow the economy, fix the country’s mining sector, address education, create jobs, and increase investment (Forbes). Let’s not forget the extensive government corruption he needs to root out.
Given our focus on education technology, we are excited about the emphasis on education and the digital / technological opportunities that could arise under his leadership.
Ramaphosa has a solid business and political track record, making him an excellent choice for the job at hand. The next few months may be the most challenging of his business and political careers. We wish President Ramaphosa every success as he leads South Africa into a new era. May he always have the courage and conviction to do the right thing.