He is respected as a skillful negotiator and strategist who acted as the ANC's Chief Negotiator during South Africa's transition to democracy. Ramaphosa built up the biggest and most powerful trade union in South Africa—the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). He played 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. Ramaphosa was Nelson Mandela’s pick as future president. Today, Cyril Ramaphosa is well known as a prominent businessman and has an estimated net worth of over $450 million with 31 properties and previously held notable ownership in companies such as McDonald's South Africa, chairperson of board for MTN and member of the board for Lonmin.
In spite of his credentials as an important proponent of South Africa's peaceful transition to democracy, he has also been widely criticised for the conduct of his business interests although he has never been indicted for illegal activity in any of these controversies. Controversial business dealings include acting as Chairperson for the MTN Group during the MTN Irancell scandal when that organisation bribed officials in Iran; his joint venture with Glencore and allegations of benefitting illegally from coal deals with Eskom which he has staunchly denied, during which Glencore was in the public spotlight for its tendentious business activities involving Tony Blair in the Middle East; and his employment on the board of directors of Lonmin while taking an active stance when the Marikana Massacre took place on Lonmin's Marikana premises. On 15 August 2012 he called for action against the Marikana miners' strike, which he called "dastardly criminal" conduct. He also admitted and regretted later for his involvement in the act and it could have been avoided if contingency plans had been made prior to the labour strike.
In 2017 Ramaphosa started the CR17 campaign as a platform for his presidential campaign ahead of the African National Congress elective conference in December 2017.
Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was born in Soweto, Johannesburg, on 17 November 1952. He is the second of the three children of Erdmuth and Samuel Ramaphosa, a retired policeman. He grew up in the south western Township (Soweto), attending Tshilidzi Primary School and Sekano Ntoane High School in Soweto. In 1971 he matriculated from Mphaphuli High School in Sibasa, Venda. He subsequently registered to study law at the University of the North (Turfloop) in 1972.
While at university, Ramaphosa became involved in student politics and joined the South African Students Organisation (SASO), and the Black People's Convention (BPC). This resulted in him being detained in solitary confinement for eleven 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, he became a law clerk for a Johannesburg firm of attorneys and continued with his articles through correspondence with the University of South Africa (UNISA), where he obtained his B. Proc. Degree in 1981. He 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 obtaining 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 was named the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). 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 August 1982, Cusa resolved to form National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and in December Ramaphosa became its first secretary. Ramaphosa was conference organiser in the preparations leading to the formations of the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU). He delivered a keynote address at Cosatu’s launch rally in Durban in December 1985. In March 1986 he was part of COSATU’s delegation which met the African National Congress in Lusaka, Zambia.
Ramaphosa was elected as the first General Secretary of the union, a position he held until he resigned in June 1991, following his election as Secretary General of the African National Congress (ANC). Under his leadership, union membership grew from 6,000 in 1982 to 300,000 in 1992, giving it control of nearly half of the total black workforce in the South African mining industry. As General Secretary, he, 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 December 1988, Ramaphosa and other prominent members of the Soweto community met Soweto’s Mayor to discuss the rent boycott crisis.
In January 1990, Ramaphosa accompanied released ANC political prisoners to Lusaka, Zambia. Ramaphosa 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 a conference held in Durban in July 1991. Ramaphosa was a visiting Professor of Law at Stanford University in the United States in October 1991.
In 1985, the NUM broke away from CUSA and 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, Ramaphosa took a leading role in what became known as the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM).
When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Ramaphosa was on the National Reception Committee.
Subsequent to his election as Secretary General of the African National Congress in 1991, he became head of the negotiation team of the ANC in negotiating the end of apartheid with the National Party government. Following the first fully democratic elections in 1994, Ramaphosa became a member of parliament; he 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 came in first place in the 1997 election to the ANC's National Executive Committee.
While not a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Ramaphosa has claimed that he is a committed socialist.
The media continually speculated on Ramaphosa joining the race for the presidency of the ANC in 2007, before the 2009 South African presidential election. However, he has stated that he is not interested in the presidency. On 2 September 2007, The Sunday Times reported that Ramaphosa was in the election race, but by that evening he had released a statement once again holding back on any commitment.
In December 2007, he was again elected to the ANC National Executive Committee, this time in 30th place with 1,910 votes.
On 20 May 2012, prominent Afrikaner ANC member Derek Hanekom asked Ramaphosa to run for President of the ANC, stating that "We need leaders of comrade Cyril's calibre. I know Cyril is very good at business, but I really wish he would put all his money in a trust and step up for a higher and more senior position". Although it is unknown whether or not Ramaphosa will run for President of the ANC, he attempted to quiet the speculation by responding to Hanekom's comment by stating "You can't read anything [into what he said]. He was joking".
He officially became a candidate for the Deputy Presidency on 17 December 2012 and entered the race with the strong backing of the Zuma camp. On 18 December 2012, he was elected as Deputy President of the ANC. Cyril Ramaphosa received 3,018 votes, while Mathews Phosa received 470 votes and Tokyo Sexwale received 463 votes.
Since Ramaphosa became deputy president of the African National Congress in the party's 2012 elective conference there has been speculation that Ramaphosa would run for the President of the ANC in 2017 and succeed Jacob Zuma as the ANC president.
Ramaphosa faces other prominent high-profile ANC politicians like Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union and the former wife of Jacob Zuma, and Baleka Mbete the former Deputy President of South Africa and the current Speaker of the National Assembly.
Ramaphosa has received backing and endorsements from Zweli Mkhize, Bheki Cele, Senzo Mchunu, COSATU and the National Union of Mineworkers.
Ramaphosa was appointed Deputy President by Jacob Zuma on May 25, 2014, and sworn into office by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng the following day. 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 will 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 Jacob 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.
In July 2014, Ramaphosa called for unity in the country, following calls by Julius Malema to scrap the singing of the Afrikaans portion of the national anthem. Ramaphosa said: "We are about building a nation and we must extend a hand of friendship, a hand of continued reconciliation to those who feel that the national anthem does not represent them any longer, and it can happen on both sides".
In 2015 Ramaphosa arrived in Beijing, China on an official state visit. Ramaphosa led a delegation of Government, state-owned enterprise, and business people. Ramaphosa held bilateral and economic discussions with Vice-President, Li Yuan Chao and met with Li Qiang, the Premier of the State Council of the Republic of China. The bilateral discussions between Ramaphosa and his Chinese counterpart Li Yuan Chao, were focused on trade, investment, cooperation, financial cooperation (including the BRICS New Development Bank), infrastructure development and energy issues.
The bilateral discussions took place within the framework of a five-to-ten year programme that President Jacob Zuma discussed during his state visit to China in 2014.
Ramaphosa went on a two-day working visit to both the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Singapore. Ramaphosa said that South Africa and Vietnam needed to expand trade. The two countries have also agreed to cooperate further on education. Both working visits were undertaken to consolidate existing bilateral political, economic and trade relations between South Africa and the two countries. The visit to Singapore provided the South African delegation, led by Ramaphosa with an opportunity to learn from the Singaporean model of economic success and the role of State-owned enterprise and economic growth and national developmental objectives of the country. Bilateral trade has grown significantly with Signapore being South Africa's second largest trading partner in the Asian Region. By 2014 bilateral trade amounted to R28.9 Billion compared to R23.5 Billion in 2015.
Ramaphosa paid a visit to Lesotho in 2016 as the South African Development Community, (SADC) facilitator. Ramaposa paid a courtesy visit to His Majesty King Letsie III and Prime Minister, Phakalitha Mosisili and his coalition leaders. Ramaphosa went to Lesotho to consolidate peace and security ahead of the SADC Summit of Heads of States and Governments. Ramaphosa was among the mandate at the SADC Double Troika held in June 2016 in Gaborone, Botswana, to facilitate the return of opposition political party leaders to Lesotho from South Africa.
On August 2016 Ramaphosa appointed a seven-person panel to advise on the appropriate level at which that national minimum wage could be set. Ramaphosa did this in his capacity as the chair of the Committee of National Principles of the National Economic Development Council (NEDLAC). The committee compromises representatives of government, labour, business and the community. It was charged with determining that national minimum wage.
In November 2016 while speaking at the Limpopo Provincial Summit, Ramaphosa said that corruption was the root to the country's ailing economy. Ramaphosa said that the South African Government and the South African business community had to find a way to combat corruption. Ramaphosa said that the summit should look at addressing quality and depth of leaders within the puclic and private sectors by adhering to the National Development Plan.
Among other positions, he is executive chairman of Shanduka Group, a company he founded. Shanduka Group has investments in the Resources Sector, Energy Sector, Real Estate, Banking, Insurance, and Telecoms (SEACOM). He is also chairman of The Bidvest Group Limited, and MTN. His other non-executive directorships include Macsteel Holdings, Alexander Forbes and Standard Bank. In March 2007 he was appointed Non-Executive joint Chairman of Mondi, a leading international paper and packaging group, when the company demerged from Anglo American plc. In July 2013 he retired from the board of SABMiller plc.
He is one of South Africa’s richest men, with Forbes estimating his wealth at $675 million.
In 2011 Ramaphosa paid a 20-year master franchise agreement to run 145 McDonald's restaurants in South Africa. Shortly after the 2012 general election Ramaphosa announced that he was going to disinvest from Shanduka to free him up to fulfill his new responsibilities as Deputy President without the possibility of conflict of interest. McDonald's South Africa announced that there would be a process underway to replace Ramaphosa as the current development licensee of the fast food chain operation in South Africa.
In 2014 after becoming Deputy President of South Africa the Register of Members' interests, tabled at parliament revealed that Ramaphosa was a wealthy politician.
Over and above the more than R76 million Ramaphosa accumulated in company shares, the documents showed that the former trade unionist and businessman owned 30 properties in Johannesburg and two apartments in Cape Town. The register also confirmed Ramaphosa's resignation from Lonmin, a directorship for which he was criticised in during the Marikana Massacre in 2012.
Ramaphosa has long been considered a potential presidential candidate and ran in the 1997 ANC Presidential election, ultimately losing to Thabo Mbeki.
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. . Ramaphosa launched his campaign slogan as #CR17 Siyavuma. . In August 2017, Ramaphosa was involved in a sacandal which alleged he had been in several extramarital affairs and was involved in paying money to alleged individuals while maintaining the affairs. Ramaphosa later denied the allegations claiming they were politically motivated in order to derail his presidential campaign.
By August 2017, Ramaphosa had received the endorsement of the trade union COSATU, the National Union of Mineworkers as well as the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng provincial ANC leadership.
Individuals who have also stepped forward to support Ramaphosa include education minister Angie Motshekga, Cosatu’s president Sdumo Dlamini, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and former KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu.
Ramaphosa is private and not much is known about his private life. Ramaphosa had previously been married to business woman Nomazizi Mtshotshisa, but the couple divorced. He later married Tshepo Motsepe, the sister of South African mining billionaire Patrice Motsepe. Ramaphosa has four children. He owns a R30 million luxury mansion at the foot of Lions Head Cape Town. Ramaphosa is known to be one of the richest people in South Africa, with an estimated networth of $450 million, and has appeared in financial magazines such as Forbes Africa and Bloomberg. Ramaphosa is also the founder of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation.
The Marikana massacre, as referred to in the media, occurred when police broke up an occupation by striking Lonmin workers of a "koppie" (hilltop) near Nkaneng shack settlement in Marikana on 16 August 2012. As a result of the police shootings, 34 miners died and an additional 78 miners were injured causing anger and outcry against the police and South African government. Further controversy emerged after it was discovered that most of the victims were shot in the back and many victims were shot far from police lines. The violence on 16 August 2012 was the single most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since the end of the apartheid era.
During the Marikana Commission, it also emerged that Lonmin management solicited Lonmin shareholder and ANC heavyweight, Cyril Ramaphosa, to coordinate "concomitant action" against "criminal" protesters and is seen by many as therefore being responsible for the massacre.
Under the investigation of Farlam committee, Mr. Ramaphosa said that Lonmin lobbied government and the SAPS firstly to secure a massive police presence at Lonmin and secondly to characterize what was taking place as a criminal rather than an industrial relations event.
On 3 September 2017, Cyril Ramaphosa embroiled into the controversy when Steven Motale (Editor of Sunday Independent) investigated his personal affairs and published a story revealing multiple extramarital affairs, which Ramaphosa later accepted.
On 12 September 2017, Congregants outraged over political hijacking the church service when they realized that it was in fact, a political campaign.
Among others, Ramaphosa has received honorary doctorates from the University of Natal, the University of Port Elizabeth, the University of Cape Town, the University of the North, the National University of Lesotho, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Pennsylvania. In October 1991, he was a visiting Professor of Law at Stanford University.
Ramaphosa received the Olof Palme prize in Stockholm in October 1987.
In 2004, he was voted 34th in the Top 100 Great South Africans.
Ramaphosa was included in the 2007 Time 100, an annual list of 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.
In his role as a businessman, Ramaphosa is a member of the Coca-Cola Company International Advisory Board as well as the Unilever Africa Advisory Council. He was also the first deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Business Council.
Along with the ex-president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, he was appointed an inspector of the Irish Republican Army weapons dumps in Northern Ireland. Ramaphosa is the Honorary Consul General for Iceland in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In the 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis, which followed the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki in December 2007, Ramaphosa was unanimously chosen by the mediation team headed by Kofi Annan to be the chief mediator in charge of leading long-term talks; however, Kibaki's government expressed dissatisfaction with the choice of Ramaphosa, saying that he had business links with Kibaki's opponent Raila Odinga, and on 4 February Annan accepted Ramaphosa's withdrawal from the role of chief mediator. According to Ramaphosa, Odinga had visited him in 2007, but he did not have any "special interest" that would lead him to favor one side or the other; however, he said that he could not be an effective mediator without "the trust and confidence of all parties" and that he therefore felt it would be best for him to return to South Africa to avoid becoming an obstacle in the negotiation.