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Biography of Cyril RAMAPHOSA

South Africa > Business : Cyril RAMAPHOSA

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Born on 17/11/1952 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Matemela Cyril Ramaphosa (born 17 Nov ,1952) is a South African lawyer, trade union leader, activist, politician and businessman.

Married to Dr Tshepo Motsepe and they have four children

There will be liberation, come rain or shine. I am optimistic about the future of South Africa. I think we have a great future ahead. In the ANC, we have a lot of talented leaders."

Ramaphosa himself is regarded as one of the most important leaders in the ANC. His election to the position of secretary general at the ANC Conference in June 1991 is proof of the faith members have in him.

Widely respected as a skilful and formidable negotiator and strategist, Ramaphosa is best known for the role he played in building the biggest and most powerful trade union in the country, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Ramaphosa was born in Soweto on 17 November 1952. After completing matric, he registered at the University of the North to study law in 1972. While at university Ramaphosa joined the South African Students Organisatio (SASO), and the Black Peoples' Convention (BPC).

In 1974 he was detained and held in solitary confinement for 11 months for his role in the organisation of pro-Frelimo rallies. In 1976 he was detained for a second time, and held for six months. During this time he began to question his role in the BPC, deciding that the "ideology of black consciousness had come full circle, it could take us no further".

After completing his law studies in 1981, Ramaphosa joined the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) as a legal advisor. In 1982 CUSA advised Ramaphosa to start a union for mine workers.

The union that was to become "a thorn in the flesh of mine bosses" had very humble beginnings. There were no funds to run the union and recruiting was difficult as mine bosses would not allow meetings to take place on mine premises. Ramaphosa, clad in a black leather jacket, would move around the goldfields at weekends, recruiting mine workers.

The NUM was launched in 1982, and Ramaphosa was elected to the position of general secretary, a position he held until he resigned from the union in 1991 (following his election to SG of the ANC).

In one decade, immeasurable improvements were made in the living conditions and working standards of the country's largest work force. The union grew from a membership of 6,000 in 1982 to 300,000 in 1992, giving it control of nearly half of the total black work force in the mining industry.

In 1985 NUM left CUSA and helped in the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). When COSATU joined forces with UDF against the Botha regime, Ramaphosa played a central role, leading him into the arena of the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM). When Mandela was released Ramaphosa was on the National Reception Committee.

Ramaphosa played a crucial role in negotiations with the former South African regime to bring about a peaceful end to apartheid and steer the country towards its first democratic elections in April 1994.

While not a member of the SACP, Ramaphosa is a committed socialist who believes that the dawn of political democracy in South Africa must be accompanied by economic democracy. "Democracy will be meaningless unless it can lead to the transformation of the quality of life of all our people," he says.

Listening to the cool sounds of jazz musician, John Coltrane, is a favourite pastime. Ramaphosa also enjoys tennis, trout fishing and watching motor-racing. He is an avid reader with a particular interest in biographies.

Ramaphosa is a sophisticated political thinker, a powerful negotiator and a leader of great integrity. He is one of the most outstanding figures of his generation.

On 24 May 1994 Ramaphosa was elected chairperson of the new Constitutional Assembly.

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 remains a National Executive Member of the African National Congress.
While not a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Ramaphosa has claimed that he is a committed socialist.
The media continually speculates on Ramaphosa joining the race for the presidency of the ANC in 2006, before the 2009 South African Presidential Elections . However, he has stated that he is not interested in the presidency.


Among other positions, he is currently (2004) executive chairman of Shanduka Holdings, a company he founded to participate in black economic empowerment transactions. He is also chairperson of the Bidvest Group, MTN Group and SASRIA Limited. His other non-executive directorships include Macsteel Holdings, Alexander Forbes, Standard Bank and SABMiller. In March 2007 it was announced that he had been appointed to be Non-Executive joint Chairman of Mondi, a leading international paper and packaging group, when the company is demerged from Anglo American plc in mid-2007.

Positions Held:
- Director (Non-Exec.), Alexander Forbes Group (Pty) Limited
- Director (Non-Exec.), Assore Ltd
- Chairperson (Non-Exec.), Bidvest Group Ltd
- Chairperson, Black Economic Empowerment Commission
- Chairperson, Capital Property Fund Ltd
- Director, Macsteel International
- Managing Director, MCI Gold
- Chairperson, MCI Resources
- Shareholder, Millennium Consolidated Investments
- Chairman, Mineral and Energy Policy Centre
- Chairperson & Chief Executive Officer, Molope Group Ltd
- Chairperson (Non-Exec.), MTN Group Limited
- Chairperson (Exec.), Shanduka Group
- Director (Non-Exec.), Standard Bank Group Limited
- Director, The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited

Last update : 07/08/2008

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