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Cyril Ramaphosa must provide ANC branches with a new alternative for South Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa must provide ANC branches with a new alternative for South Africa.

ANC branches are the ones that hold the cards of whether the 105-year-old liberation movement sinks or swim; and by implication the future of the country.

And come the ANC National Elective Conference from December 16-20, it would be fair for Ramaphosa to have communicated his plans for resuscitating the governing ANC and South Africa.

Ramaphosa’s struggle credentials speak for themselves, and a remarkable record at various political formations including his credible leadership acumen as a trade unionist provide both the ANC and the country of a man with the necessary intellectual political vision.

He is popularly known as a skillful negotiator and strategist who acted as the ANC’s Chief Negotiator during South Africa’s transition to democracy.

Before then, Ramaphosa built up the biggest and most powerful trade union in South Africa, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Ramaphosa was Nelson Mandela’s pick as future president and went on to play a crucial role, with Roelf Meyer of the National Party, during the negotiations to bring about a peaceful end to apartheid and steer the country towards its first democratic elections in April 1994.

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was born in South Western Townships (Soweto), Johannesburg, on 17 November 1952.

He grew up, attended Tshilidzi Primary School and Sekano Ntoane High School in Soweto.

In 1971, he matriculated from Mphaphuli High School in Sibasa, Venda, now Limpopo province. And he subsequently registered to study law at the University of the North (Turfloop) in 1972.

While at university, he became involved in student politics and joined the South African Students Organisation (SASO), and the Black People’s Convention (BPC).

As a result, he was detained in solitary confinement for 11 months in 1974 under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act, for organising pro-Frelimo rallies.

In 1976, he was detained again, following the unrest in Soweto and held for six months at John Vorster Square under the Terrorism Act.

After his release, Ramaphosa became a law clerk for a Johannesburg firm of attorneys. He continued with his articles through correspondence with the University of South Africa (UNISA), where he obtained his B. Proc. Degree in 1981.

Ramaphosa completed his articles in the same year, and joined the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) as an advisor in the legal department.

After he obtained his degree, Ramaphosa joined the National Council of Trade Unions (NCTU) as a legal advisor.

In 1982, CUSA requested that Ramaphosa start a union for mineworkers. This new union was launched in the same year and he named it NUM.

Symbolically, Ramaphosa was arrested in Lebowa, on the charge of organising or planning to take part in a meeting in Namakgale which was banned by the local magistrate.

In 1985, the NUM broke away from CUSA and he helped to establish the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). When COSATU joined forces with the United Democratic Front (UDF) political movement against the National Party government of P. W. Botha in the 1980s, Ramaphosa took a leading role in what became known as the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM).

In August 1982, CUSA resolved to form NUM and in December, Ramaphosa became its first secretary. He was a conference organiser in the preparations leading to the formations of COSATU and delivered a keynote address at its launch rally in Durban in December 1985.

And in March 1986, he was part of COSATU’s delegation which met the ANC in Lusaka, Zambia.

He was elected as the first General Secretary of the union, a position he held until he resigned in June 1991, after he was elected as the Secretary General of the ANC

Under his leadership, membership numbers grew from 6,000 in 1982 to 300,000 in 1992, giving it control of nearly half of the total black workforce in the mining industry.

As General Secretary, Ramaphosa, James Motlatsi (President of NUM), and Elijah Barayi (Vice President of NUM) also led the mineworkers in one of the biggest strikes ever in South African history in 1987.

In December 1988, Ramaphosa and other prominent members of the Soweto community met Soweto’s Mayor to discuss the rent boycott crisis.

In January 1990, he accompanied released ANC political prisoners to Lusaka, Zambia and served as chairman of the National Reception committee, which co-ordinated arrangements for the release of Nelson Mandela and subsequent welcome rallies within South Africa, and also became a member of the international Mandela Reception committee.

He was elected General-Secretary of the ANC in the organisation’s first conference inside South Africa after 30 years of being banned, held in Durban in July 1991. He was also a visiting Professor of Law at Stanford University in the United States in October 1991.

As Secretary General of the ANC in 1991, he became head of the negotiation team of the ANC during the talks to the end apartheid with the National Party government. After the first fully democratic elections in 1994, he became a member of parliament and was elected the chairperson of its Constitutional Assembly on 24 May 1994 and played a central role in the government of national unity.

After he lost the race to become President of South Africa to Thabo Mbeki, he resigned from his political positions in January 1997 and moved to the private sector, where he became a director of New Africa Investments Limited. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Black Economic Empowerment Commission (BEEC). He was recently cleared by the Farlam Commission in his alleged role in the Marikana debacle of August 2012, where 34 miners were shot dead by police on August 16, 2012 and 10 people were killed in related incidents in the area, the week towards August 16.

To prove his popularity Ramaphosa, came in first place in the 1997 election to the ANC’s National Executive Committee, the highest decision making body of the ANC between conferences.

He officially became a candidate for the Deputy Presidency on 17 December 2012; and entered the race with the strong backing of the Jacob Zuma camp. On 18 December 2012, he was elected as Deputy President of the ANC where he received 3,018 votes.

Since Ramaphosa became deputy president of the ANC in the party’s 2012 elective conference, there has been speculation that he would run for the President of the ANC in 2017 and succeed Jacob Zuma as the ANC president.

He faces other prominent high-profile ANC politicians like Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former Chairperson of the African Union and the former wife of Jacob Zuma; and Baleka Mbete, the current Speaker of the National Assembly; and now current ANC treasurer-general Dr. Zweli Mkhize among other candidates.

Ramaphosa has received backing and endorsements from Zweli Mkhize, Bheki Cele, Senzo Mchunu, COSATU and the National Union of Mineworkers.

In a step in the right direction for him, Ramaphosa was appointed Deputy President by Jacob Zuma on May 25, 2014.

Following his appointment, Ramaphosa was made Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly in terms of section 91(4) of the Constitution. His responsibilities include: the affairs of the national executive in Parliament, the programming of parliamentary business initiated by the national executive, within the time allocated for that purpose and ensuring that Cabinet members attend to their parliamentary responsibilities.

On 3 June 2014, President Zuma announced that Ramaphosa would be appointed as Chairman of the National Planning Commission, with Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Jeff Radebe serving as the Commission’s deputy Chairman.

Ramaphosa announced that he would seek the ANC Presidency in 2017, with his second run for President immediately placing him as a front-runner for the party leadership.

He launched his campaign slogan as CR17 #Siyavuma.

In August of this year, the media exposed that he was alleged to have been in several extramarital affairs and was involved in paying money to alleged individuals while maintaining the affairs.

He later denied the allegations claiming, they were politically motivated in order to derail his presidential campaign. Although it was also reported that he did admit to one of these affairs and had ended it years ago.

He has received the endorsement of COSATU, South African Communist Party (SACP), NUM as well as the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng provincial ANC leadership.

To strengthen his campaign and cultivate a new political programme, which will allow him to triumph if he becomes both presidents of the ANC and South Africa respectively, he must go back to the basics and create conditions for the revival of the United Democratic Front; the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), which was replaced by COSATU in 1985; Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa); and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU). He must also reach out to the Black Consciousness Movement, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), United Democratic Movement (UDM), Congress of the People (COPE), Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) and other forms of mass political, social and economic affiliations in the South Africa and then go for a re-launch of the Mass Democratic Movement which will heal, stabilize, unite and give South Africa its total liberation.

Ramaphosa, the time has come!

Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

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