A man for all seasons

2008-02-25 00:00

If South Africa were a more mature and better-governed country, Cyril Ramaphosa would be a shoo-in as the next president. As a skilled lawyer, trade union leader, political organiser, constitutional negotiator and conciliator of international repute, Ramaphosa lacks only one obvious qualification — a track record in government. The fact that he is not next in line to succeed the current president has more to do with Thabo Mbeki’s own insecurities than any shortcomings on Ramaphosa’s part. Indeed, Mbeki’s failure to pave the way for a well-regarded successor and leaving the field open to the likes of Jacob Zuma has already become a regrettable aspect of his legacy.

Although he seldom speaks of it, detention appears to have had a profound effect on Ramaphosa, whose search for a more effective instrument of opposition to apartheid than mere protest led him into legal practice and then into the trade union movement, where he was primarily responsible for building the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) into the biggest and most politically formidable union in the country.

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