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I met the young Cyril

19 December 2012, 18:48

I met Cyril Ramaphosa and little did I know he would become of of South Africa's Presidents.....

The year was 1985 – the United Democratic Front (UDF) was a political movement against the National Party, Cyril Ramaphosa, Terror Lekota and Mohammed Vally Moosa  was also part of the  Mass Democratic Movement (MDM).These alliances were formed together with the “End Conscription Campaign”.

Also  involved were the South African Jewish Students. And the Black Sash voice – with Helen Zille, rang out loud and clear against the atrocities of the South African Defence Force.

I belonged to a family of printers in Fordsburg. My father and brothers were part of the printing company and my first job was as typesetter. I was typesetter and lithographer.

I was busy at my desk – facing the front door – when there stood a group of young men. My brother invited them in and all I could do was stutter… These were the young studs of the new political movements that would become our liberators. I am sure one of them was Jonathan Handler. I can’t remember meeting Cameron Dugmore of Cape Town.

That was the first of many of the most exciting moments of my life! Was I subversive according to the law? I was typesetting the Freedom Charter! I was typing the Constitution of these movements! Sometimes things were so urgently needed that these young guys would hang around while I typed like crazy! They would buy lunches and cooldrinks and always offered us their lunch. I was like a blithering idiot and just giggled. Well I was silly!

Cyril was definitely one of the leaders. They would sit huddled together – always talking, always making notes, always busy. He had leadership qualities, but so did the others. Every day we printed pamphlets, newsletters, posters and everything else that would be used to enlighten people of what was going on underground! Subversive activities!

The police would come round but we were faster than they were – negatives would be used and destroyed, printing plates would be hidden in the butcher shop and sometimes we wrapped it around ourselves! We were always on tenterhooks!

They would sit and tell us of their escapades – some funny and some sad. Terror was the most talkative, Cyril was quiet and laid back, he would smile a lot and one could see the academic in him, Ismail Vally was quiet as well. Sometimes they would rock up with other guys and girls in tow - all activists at the time. I wish I had got to know them all. Little did we know that these young men would form the basis of a new future for South Africa!

After that they were regular visitors to our press. But it was not easy for us. These were banned organisations and Adrian Vlok was Minister of Justice. These young men also belonged to Trade Unions – some founded by them. To make matters worse the police were always on the lookout for End Conscription members – they were criminals wanted by the law – their crime? Refusing to join the army and kill innocent black people!

We saw less of them as the political landscape changed. But they were good clients and they always paid their bills on time!

We watched Cyril’s career. Mr Mandela was released and Cyril was there, CODESA formed and Cyril was there, the New Constitution formed and Cyril was there. He was there when it mattered.

I think Cyril Ramaphosa was a good choice. He will go on to become a President of South Africa. I also hope he reads this – and remembers the days back then when he was young and bold. I hope he takes these qualities with him as Deputy President. We need someone who can lead. He has made mistakes – but they are small in comparison to the people that are leading us now!

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