Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Ramaphosa aims to lead South Africa out of corruption swamp

Published:Friday | February 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Cyril Ramaphosa is sworn in as South African President by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng (left) in Cape Town, South Africa yesterday. Ramaphosa on Thursday was elected unopposed as South Africa's new president by ruling party legislators after the Wednesday resignation of Jacob Zuma.


Up from Soweto township to become a leading anti-apartheid activist and then wealthy businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa has been a central figure in South Africa's tumultuous history before becoming the country's president yesterday.

Astute and articulate, the 65-year-old former deputy president marshalled the forces that brought scandal-swamped Jacob Zuma to resign late Wednesday and now faces the challenge of rejuvenating one of Africa's most powerful economies.

The ruling African National Congress "couldn't have got a better person to lead the country out of crisis," said William Gumede, professor at the school of governance at the University of the Witswatersrand.

"What's exciting about Ramaphosa is that he is a proven strategic thinker and actor," Gumede said. "As the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1980s, as the ANC's negotiator to end apartheid, as the chairman of the assembly writing the constitution, Ramaphosa has negotiated very difficult, complex problems and he has delivered solutions."

Ramaphosa became the leader of the ANC, Africa's oldest liberation movement, in December by narrowly defeating Zuma's ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. He quickly spoke out against the corruption that had weakened the ANC, which has been in power since the end of white minority rule in 1994, and sped up the momentum that led to Zuma's resignation.

Ramaphosa knew well what was needed to bring about a change of leadership as he's been a key ANC figure for decades, having served on its National Executive Committee for 26 years.

Born in Johannesburg's Soweto township in 1952, the son of a policeman, Ramaphosa became a student activist against the apartheid system of white minority rule. He was detained twice during that turbulent era, in 1974 when he was held in solitary confinement for 11 months for organising rallies supporting Mozambique's nationalist movement and again in 1976 after the Soweto student uprising that focused the world's attention on apartheid's injustices.