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Man who was at Mandela’s side returns to politics

January 8th, 2013
06:54 PM ET

Cyril Ramaphosa on South Africa's challenges

WEB EXTRA: Cyril Ramaphosa

By Samuel Burke, CNN

Cyril Ramaphosa was the young lawyer at Nelson Mandela’s side for much of the journey to bring about a peaceful transformation to South Africa.

Ramaphosa led a defining 1987 strike against the apartheid regime and then helped negotiate the democratic transition and draft the new constitution.

He left politics and amassed a fortune in private business, but has just returned to politics as President Jacob Zuma’s new deputy in the African National Congress.

“I accept that we have massive challenges,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Tuesday. “Not everything is absolutely where we want it to be.”

There is immense inequality and unemployment in the Rainbow Nation, where the gap between rich and poor is one of the worst on the planet. 

How South Africa exited the nuclear club

Critics of the current government and President Zuma contend that the ANC is plagued with endemic corruption and carrying out a major assault on the institutions of democracy, including press freedom and the judiciary.

In 2011, Bishop Desmond Tutu even went as far as to say that the ANC is even worse than the apartheid regime was.

“The ANC has bared its own soul, its own breast and has admitted a lot of those things,” Ramaphosa said. “Now that, to me, is indicative of a party that is quite ready to start a process of correcting quite a lot of those perceptions.”

Ramaphosa faces some of those very same perceptions when it comes to his role in the violent incidents at South African mines last year. He sits on the board of a mine where 34 people were killed and some 78 people were injured as they protested working conditions.

Emails he sent at the time have been published and purport to carry messages to the mine board a message calling for actions to be taken against the protestors and even calling them criminals.

Ramaphosa has offered to testify before a commission set up by President Zuma to investigate the incidents, but he told Amanpour the emails were referring to a prior incident and he was expressing concerns about the killing of policeman, security officials and other mine workers.

“Some of them had died in the most brutal way. They had died in what I still see as a criminal way,” Ramaphosa said. “It was so terrible – it just begins to defy any feeling that anyone would have. And I was appealing to the authorities to take action, to make sure that we prevent further death.”

Ramaphosa said he was horrified by the consequent violence and death at the mines.

“A long part of my life was spent serving mine workers. And there is just no way I could ever have said that mine workers should be killed. There is just no way. It is just defies any logic in me. I've served mine workers loyally and I sought to improve their lives, the condition of their employment and that is on the record.”

In the years since Ramaphosa left ANC politics, he became a businessman and Forbes reports he is worth $675 million dollars.

He brushed that off, refusing to say how much was worth when asked, but said it does not prevent him from connecting with the average South African.

“The members who elected me are fully aware of my situation. But I have been and I am a businessman. And the ANC is about change. The ANC is a political organization that welcomes everyone,” he said. “Now I can make a contribution to that. And it is my conscience that will be driving the actions that I have to take.”

Many suspect Ramaphosa’s new role as deputy president of the ANC is just a stepping stone for him to eventually become president. He acknowledged that he takes the party line when responding to inquires about leading South Africa one day: “Within the ANC you are chosen. You never choose yourself.”

He said that is exactly how he came to his newly-elected position in the ANC.

“I was minding my own business. And the people said we want you to come into this position. And I heeded that.”

He told Amanpour that he believes President Zuma will head the ticket in South Africa’s 2014 elections.

“He is going to be the face of our campaign and all members of the ANC are going to rally behind him,” he said. “Rally behind him to achieve the victory that our people want us to achieve. The ANC will emerge victorious in that election being led by President Zuma.”

RELATED: South African troops headed to embattled Central African Republic

CNN’s Claire Calzonetti & Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.

Filed under:  Latest Episode • South Africa
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. michael

    i agree he change the lifes of the mine people but the question remain was he supporting the workers demand?

    January 9, 2013 at 12:02 am | Reply
    • (TR)

      That's the question. About the Lonmin shooting at Marikana, was he thinking about the mineworkers or was he thinking about his own pocket. He is on the Lonmin board of directors, so he owns part of the mine where the shooting happened that killed 34 and wounded 78.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:15 am | Reply
  2. phathela

    From the way he talks, i am convinced he is by far the right person to lead South Africa now, experienced, does not need to be corrupt (already rich), not a tribalist, educated , hard working with good moral ground and educated , I am tempted to go back to RSA

    January 9, 2013 at 6:11 am | Reply
  3. Ashirbar Muestu

    His comment on a Buffalo is purely a white lie. What output can one get in a business decision of buying a buffalo that expensive. It was his entertainment, it was his way of pleasuring his wealth. Where he bought the buffalo was not a farmer auction area but stinky rich entertainment bash club. If that was true then he is in the league of his own. There is no farmer who can make that type of foolish decision.

    Good luck SOUTH AFRICA

    January 9, 2013 at 6:24 am | Reply
  4. Tshepo

    his comments gives me hope about our country, he is by far much better than president Zuma in articulating the direction which the country and ANC needs to take.

    January 9, 2013 at 7:18 am | Reply
  5. sebastiendelame

    I think Cyril Ramaphosa and all other ANC leaders need to be challenged more on things they say during interviews.

    How can Ramaphosa say the ANC has done so much to improve the lives of South African's since the end of Apartheid when millions still live in poverty without even the most basic of services, and when education is said by many to be WORSE now than during the Apartheid days of Bantu Education?

    He says that he believes the miners working and living conditions need to be improved but why have they not already been improved? South Africa is not a poor country – why is the ANC spending millions on upgrading their own personal interests (e.g. Nkandla) or simply changing street and town names when they could be spending that money on improving the lives of ordinary South Africans?

    And finally, it always amazes me when the ANC says that all they want is to ensure democracy strives and racism is abolished. How can they say they stand for democracy while pushing for legislation that would see journalists jailed for up to 25 years for revealing government corruption (the Secrecy Bill). How can they say they stand for non-racialism when one of their key policies in black economic empowerment – a policy that often excludes whites from jobs simply because they are white. Does a white boy or girl born after Apartheid in 1994 deserve to have less opportunities simply because they were born white? And how can they say they stand for non-racialism when ANC figures still to this day publicly blame "whites" for all the problems South Africa faces today. The most recent example of racism coming from the ANC is President Zuma's comments on dog ownership being part of "white culture" and not African culture – apart from being a massive generalisation, do comments like those really promote non-racialism? What happened to us all being South Africans first, no matter what skin colour we are.

    These are the questions that need to be asked.

    January 9, 2013 at 7:29 am | Reply
    • Lee

      I Couldn't agree more!!! Well said.

      January 11, 2013 at 9:09 am | Reply
    • (TR)

      Well said! The fact is that the ANC lied to the world. The "Rainbow Nation" is a joke. The social experiment of multiculturalism failed. South Africa was more peaceful when everybody was separate, where cultures could co-exist. Now different cultures are all trampling on each other for a place in the sun.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:25 am | Reply
  6. DIDI

    ashirbar: the buffalo that cyril bid for was of a rare genetic class, hence the ~$2 million and with that rare animal mating and producing more offsprings carrying that gene pool would have made a kill. I am convinced that it was an innocent business decision but in a wrong country.

    January 9, 2013 at 8:44 am | Reply
  7. Mark Anthony Fysh

    I was calling for peace, instead I got war.
    My intentions were pure, my wealth an illusion,
    my name is bespattered, besmirched to the core.
    oh Gods of the nation, away this confusion.

    I have power of politics, so just and deserved,
    I've waited a long time, for this to occur.
    A place in my Party, so carefully observed,
    not asked for not wanted, at the speed of a blur.

    So tell me dear Comrades, of honour and trust
    how can you help me to veil my eyes,
    from the plunder and bumble, a cloud of old lust.
    For honour and duty, bury we must.

    January 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  8. elijah

    Cyril is the man. The brutality shown by strikers in butchering fellow workers, police and security officers was beyond barbaric. Not condoning the killings by the police. Decisive action had to be taken. We couldn't allow such senseless brutality to continue. Cyril was bravo enough to stand up and denounce that at all levels. He wanted peace for all but unfortunately he wasn't a strategic planner for the police.
    Up with our Future President!!

    January 10, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  9. Rusty van Druten

    Make no mistake, the ANC has in the short space of eighteen years provided a strong foundation for corruption and serious maladministration in SA. We see scores of once well administered local authorities bankrupt today, mainly because of grossly inept so-called ANC cadres promoted to posts completely beyond their level of competence and the Peter principle abounds throughout the country Today incompetence goes hand in glove with corruption, as reported regularly in our media (now under threat of judicial gagging to prevent reportage of just such events) and of course the ANC merely scoffs at these suggestions and says they'll be in power until Jesus comes. We heard similar boasts by Hitlers '1000 year' Third Reich and also Ian Smiths Rhodesian government. The international community is completely unaware of the real situation under ANC control, and don't be surprised when the country grinds to a halt, and the chickens eventually come home to roost here there and everywhere.

    January 11, 2013 at 2:54 am | Reply
  10. Citizen

    First you need to be living here to comment .Most of these post are negative ,what do u know about the state of our country .We have the best economy if africa ,best military ,best cities ,best standard of living .
    Yes we have problems ,but then agin every country has them ,we are a yough democracy .Give us a chance to build a proper foundation ,we are still in a learning curve .Remember we had Bantu education in SA ,that injustice does not get retified in 20 years ,WE WILL GET THERE .

    January 11, 2013 at 4:07 am | Reply
    • Lee

      I am living here and they are all right. Sure they might be negative, but are fact. I think you live in a dream world. Do you really think we have the best Military? Best living conditions? Have you been driving around lately? Be honest with yourself. As for the Bantu education thing; who is burning school books now? (Remember the scandal last year?) The conditions of the schools in rural areas are horrific. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Why is our taxes not spend on the improvement of the schools and conditions as is budgeted for annually? Instead every financial year the budget was mismanaged. Where is that money going? If you know, please let me know.

      January 11, 2013 at 9:25 am | Reply
    • (TR)

      I live in SA so I can comment. Blacks were better off under Bantu education. The white man's education is too difficult for you guys, that's why you got the Bantu education. Half of students starting school drop out before they even get to write final year Matric exams, of those who actually make it to Gr.12 only 74% pass. Those are ANC statistics, so we can assume that they are cooked, just like the crime stats and the census stats that say whites earn 6 times more than blacks on average. So actually only 33 out of 100 students pass their final year of school, the rest either drop out before Gr.10 or fail their Gr.12 miserably. I say miserably, because all they had to get to "pass" was around 40% in points.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:41 am | Reply
    • Raouligan

      By comparing our economy to the rest of Africa is really quite ignorant, the rest of Africa is a desolate corrupt society Governed by dictators enriching their own pockets...( or is that South Africa)

      January 14, 2013 at 2:03 am | Reply
  11. Konrad Kolbe proud South African

    Firstly I must say that some of the comments made are pretty negative and it seems to be the norm, with mostly aggrieved "White" folks, but I take it from whence it comes. Negatives develop in dark rooms and for as long as we continue to live in the dark pockets of negativity we so breed negativity. I say let's try and ask ourselves what have we done to initiate positive change. It begins with all of us, including myself how have we impacted the life of someone who doesn't have. "Give a man a fish and he can feed he's family for a day, teach him how to fish and he can feed a village." I see lots of hand outs but little time invested in the lives of people. Any leader's worth should not be measured by his wealth, instead his ability to deliver on his word. No leader will be able to please everyone but for the greater good I believe Cyril will Fight for equality minimize poverty, corruption,crime etc and that is if he is elected within the ANC to lead South Africa after Zuma's second term. The task set before our country and it's leaders are huge, but if everyone becomes less negative and learns selflessness and shuns self enrichment through unscrupulous means we will achieve utopia. There are many things that are wrong at the moment not only in our country but it the world at large but there so many more things that are right, particularly in South Africa. I believe that South Africa and the world had to experience the leadership of Mandela; Mbeki and Zuma so we can arrive at making the call for a new era in our history. Ramaphosa has got my vote even though I don't currently support the wayward ANC. Here is to a revolutionary 2013 for all of us citizens of the world. Wishing you all LOVE HAPPINESS HEALTH PEACE AND PROSPERITY!!!!

    January 11, 2013 at 6:29 am | Reply
  12. tinaye hove

    Beware Cyril, they will welcome you, the westerners as a black man who sees things as they do, until the moment you decide to do something for the black people then will turn on you and blacklist you, while locking up all your international bank account and assets, South Africa is a 3rd world country that must start to realize it is such so it can address the social issue by breaking the cycle of poverty and violence that swallows up most of it's people, after that we must educate and then empower by putting black people who are capable in charge of the economy with a focus on Africans being able to benefit from our resources.

    January 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Reply
  13. Henry

    The ANC is a racist party like the old white only Nationalist Party , Their is hardly any whites, Indians and Coloureds (Mixed race) in their ANC party . South Africa will only change when the ANC bring ALL ON BOARD . We ALL need to work together until then We South Africa is going No were with A Black Only Government. Please take note of Zambia and Botswana many South Africans have moved their I wonder why.

    January 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  14. moola, zambia

    cyril has cme bk late to politics..he is what anc nd south africa hs alwys needed..

    January 13, 2013 at 1:45 am | Reply
  15. Rofhiwa R

    All I can say is watch this space. SA has now a very good line up for running this nation. It's problems has been completely exposed and thanks to all you guys for making us aware. Now I know we going to address it and progress n our quest for economic freedom

    January 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Reply
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    March 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm | Reply

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