Ramaphosa’s generous humility should not be ridiculed

2012-09-01 12:47

Since the Marikana tragedy, there has been much comment about Cyril Ramaphosa and Shanduka, the company he founded.

But it was Ferial Haffajee’s column “Cyril, what for art thou, Cyril?” (City Press, August 26) and comments on that column from people I know that made me put pen to paper.

Haffajee writes as someone deeply disappointed by Ramaphosa, and makes deeply personal and hurtful comments.

With your years of experience, I would have expected you to do more careful research and apply a more critical eye.

I have worked with Ramaphosa for 19 years. I started off as his PA when he was the ANC’s secretary-general.

I was with him when he was earning the modest salary of a political office bearer and have seen his progression, and he has
remained substantially the same man.

He is the most caring, inclusive and generous person I have ever met.

When we were both still in the ANC secretary-general’s office, Ramaphosa set up the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust.

Each time he was asked to give a speech, we asked for donations for the trust.

When the funds in the trust ran short, he contributed money from his own salary.

Later, when Ramaphosa was offered a shareholding in Future Africa Trading – which now owns shares in Macsteel – he gave up that shareholding to the trust.

In the late 90s, a request for an old fax machine from Ramaphosa’s primary school led to the founding of the Adopt-a-School Foundation.

To date, the foundation has adopted more than 140 schools and provides infrastructure, teacher training and social support.

In 2001, when Ramaphosa set up the Shanduka Group, he personally gave a 5% shareholding to two trusts – one to promote improvements in education and one to promote small business development.

He also made shares available to his staff and a number of other comrades he worked with.

The two trusts became the Shanduka Foundation in 2004, to which the group committed R100 million over 10 years.

More than R70 million of this money has already been spent.

In addition to the foundation’s regular budget of more than R24 million a year, the Shanduka board has agreed to provide another R100 million over five years.

This will be invested in a joint venture with Kagiso Trust to take our school development model into approximately 400 schools.

In 2009, the foundation partnered with an NGO founded by Mark Frankel and Charles Maisel to establish Shanduka Black Umbrellas, where black businesspeople are trained, mentored and provided with office facilities.

The programme has four incubators – in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban.

Ramaphosa dedicates much of his time and energy to the foundation.

He personally initiates programmes like Back 2 School for a Day and often goes to visit communities where the foundation has adopted schools.

He attends the launches of all the Shanduka Black Umbrellas incubators and has met most of the small-business owners in them. He still meets with all our students and takes time to motivate them.

Shanduka has a well-developed internship programme for graduates who cannot get employment.

Beyond the Shanduka Foundation, Ramaphosa touches every community he moves into.

When his son was at a school in KwaZulu-Natal, he improved the small farm school close to it.

When he bought a farm in Limpopo, the first thing he did was improve the schools in the surrounding area.

He and his wife have personally given more than 100 bursaries to children who applied to them directly.

He employs a teacher to give lessons to all his farmworkers and has hired an NGO to do a youth development programme at the nearby schools.

He is setting up a youth camp on his farm that can be used by local schools.

He employs a social worker, who assists people he supports. All of this is done quietly with no publicity whatsoever.

It is a shame when a person’s very humility results in others with no knowledge vilifying him as an uncaring and “fat farmer”.

He is deputy chairperson of the National Planning Commission, which has just completed what may become one of the most important documents since the Constitution.

It is wrong to say Ramaphosa has achieved nothing of significance in the last decade.

It will be a sad day if he indeed takes Haffajee’s advice to “choose between his life as business magnate, a pure and simple personal quest; and his life as political leader, a more communal path”.

»Nicol is the executive director of the Shanduka Foundation

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