Founder of the Shanduka Investment Group and Chairman of the MTN Group, Cyril Ramaphosa has returned to politics, agreeing to run for the position of deputy president of prevalent political party the African National Congress (ANC).
Ramaphosa on Sunday announced that he would accept a nomination to run for the position of deputy president, as the ANC opened its leadership conference at Mangaung – held every five years, and stage for the selection of the party’s leadership in preparation for national elections.
Businessman Ramaphosa was originally a key figure in the anti-apartheid struggle, leading miners’ strikes – and is attributed with the growth of the National Union of Mineworkers into a major political force -; with Ramaphosa also taking a lead in negotiations with the governing white party.
He later turned to business, in 2001 launching Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) group the Shanduka Group, which he has grown into a formidable investment company, making his own $675 million wealth in the meantime.
Shanduka has maximised on South Africa’s black ownership regulations, buying stakes in various leading companies such as the now-infamous mining outfit Lonmin, Standard Bank, the MTN Group of which Ramaphosa is Chairman, and McDonalds South Africa.
Ramaphosa’s business acumen has been described by Bobby Godsell, former chief executive of AngloGold Ashanti, calling him “the most skilled negotiator I have ever met”.
While miners and low-income members of South African society have recently accused Ramaphosa of becoming one of the elite and turning his back on his trade unionist and activist roots, others have commended his refined and inconspicuous approach to business and negotiations.
National Party negotiator in the lead-up to the end of apartheid Rolf Meyer has also payed tribute to Ramaphosa’s skill and dedication, noting: “To say that he’s lost touch with the poor, I think it’s a complete underestimation of what he’s really doing.”
Ramaphosa has briefly come under fire recently with respect to the deadly violence at the Marikana-based miners’ strikes – where 47 people were killed – as it came to light that Ramaphosa had encouraged the authorities to crack down on striking workers only days before the fatal shootings.
With current deputy of the ANC Kgalema Motlanthe challenging president Jacob Zuma’s position as president of the party, Ramaphosa has by accepting his nomination stepped up in support of Zuma – adding his considerable business and political weight to the leadership fray – with many expecting Zuma will remain unbeaten in the 2014 national elections.