100 World Class South Africans: Cyril Ramaphosa

2013-08-01 12:00

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A born leader

In 50 Flippin Good South Africans, political commentator Allister Sparks asks: Could Cyril Ramaphosa be the best leader South Africa has not yet had?

A skilful negotiator and strategist, Ramaphosa has the credentials.

Jailed as a student in the turbulent 1970s, he spent the 1980s building up the formidable National Union of Mineworkers and the early 1990s negotiating (with Roelf Meyer of the National Party) a peaceful end to apartheid.

When the new Constitution – widely regarded worldwide as a work of brilliance – was produced in 1996, the country knew it was shaped with great care and hard work by Ramaphosa, then chairman of the Constitutional Assembly.

He was Mandela’s first choice as successor (Thabo Mbeki, Oliver Tambo’s understudy, beat him to the post).

Stepping back from politics to focus on business, Ramaphosa has, since 1997, shaped a gargantuan empire under the holding company Shanduka Group, with shares in mines and minerals and stakes in Standard Bank, MTN, SABMiller and Bidvest, among others.

His worth is estimated by Forbes at $675 million. Last year he was summoned back into the centre ring by ANC heavyweights.

Ramaphosa won the position of deputy president by a landslide victory, putting him back on the track Mandela had in mind for him 18 years ago.

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