15/02/2018 14:20 SAST | Updated 15/02/2018 14:32 SAST

Cyril Ramaphosa: This Is SA's New President

Those who know him give us an idea of how Ramaphosa might lead.

On Thursday afternoon, shortly after 2pm, Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as the fifth democratically elected president of South Africa.

This follows the much-anticipated resignation of Jacob Zuma on Wednesday night following a stand-off between him and the governing ANC, which had recalled him earlier this week.

This profile of Ramaphosa from HuffPost's archives seeks to give an idea of the kind of leader he will be.


At first, James Motlatsi was wary of Cyril Ramaphosa.

He wasn't sure if the young lawyer, who grew up in Soweto, was genuine when he wanted to organise the mining sector in 1982.

"You have to understand that the mining industry used to employ only unskilled blacks from rural areas. Because of the Group Areas Act mine workers would seldom have any relationship with even blacks in the townships ... So mine workers were not only discriminated [against] by whites, they were also discriminated [against] by township people," Motlatsi explains.

After hearing him out, he decided to help Ramaphosa, "not that I will work with [him]".

He provided access to leaders in the mines and again assisted when Ramaphosa asked him to identify a possible president for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The candidate got cold feet and Motlatsi was elected instead. This time, he thought he would help out for a year, which turned into 17 and a half years at the helm of the union.

Motlatsi, who says Ramaphosa has since become like a brother to him, hints at how Ramaphosa won him over: "Cyril, being the person that he is, is able to quickly realise your strengths, your weaknesses and he will invest in improving your weaknesses ... And he will create an environment where you will enjoy to work with him; to fall into his programmes. And he will make sure that he will keep you busy for you to develop yourself in such a manner that you won't even be aware but he will make a follow-up, which you will realise later, that was a follow-up."

'Ruthless and decisive' or indecisive?

In a 1996 profile, Mark Gevisser described Ramaphosa's smile as one "that wraps itself around his face".

But, says Kuben Pillay, who worked under Ramaphosa in the early days of the NUM, no one should be fooled by that "really affable, friendly character".

"I've seen Cyril ruthless and decisive when he needs to be -- in terms of people that he employed [but] mainly in terms of when he took on the bosses in the industry."

I've seen Cyril ruthless and decisive when he needs to be.Kuben Pillay

Cheryl Carolus, who was deputy secretary-general of the ANC while Ramaphosa was secretary-general and considers Ramaphosa to be a friend, has seen a similar side of him. "He is not shy to be tough on his team and on anybody that crosses the line in terms of values," she says. In fact, she thinks he is sometimes "a bit harsh" in judging people.

Mpumelelo Mkhabela, fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria, is not convinced.

He points to Ramaphosa's tardiness in declaring his interest in the top job as an example of his indecisiveness. "Given the current challenges, any presidential hopeful will have to be very decisive and be willing to allow state agencies, including the [National Prosecuting Authority], to do their work without fear or favour. It would require boldness and a [willingness] to be unpopular with your own comrades.

"He seems to be Mr Nice who wants to make everyone happy -- hardly the character the country needs at this stage," he says.

Carolus agrees that Ramaphosa left it almost too late. "Cyril must also stop that nonsense. If he's ambitious, then he must state his ambition and stop being coy about it ... It's unbecoming for a grown man to try to pretend to be modest. He must just get on with it."

Anthony Butler, the author of a biography of Ramaphosa, says people who have worked with him in business have complained that he pays attention to tiny details in some instances -- by, for example, choosing the clothes that the staff on his farm wears -- yet he fails to be sufficiently decisive, "particularly in pursuit of his own interests. He didn't want to be seen [to be] pursuing his own interests ..."

Butler says that while Ramaphosa presents a charming face to the world, he is also "quite capable of being an intimidating person".

"It seems to be impossible to intimidate him, to frighten him, effectively. He seems to be entirely immune to that kind of political pressure," he adds.

Ramaphosa's own explanation for his "exterior veneer of charm and unflappability", writes Gevisser, is that it came from his policeman father.

"Sergeant Ramaphosa brought his children up with a Venda proverb, one he used in his own life, and one his son continues to mutter, as a mantra, in times of adversity: 'A mature person will step on a thorn looking at it.' There might be a thorn in Cyril Ramaphosa's way. He won't deviate from his path, though, he won't cry with pain once he tramples on it, and he won't let you know how much it hurts."

'Not such a clear opposite of Zuma'

The Ramaphosa camp has been positioning itself as the antithesis of the captured part of the ANC. The material put out by the campaign through its website and newsletters calls for a return to the values of the ANC of old.

Read: If the ANC race was just online, who'd be heading for Mahlamba Ndlopfu?

Says Professor Susan Booysen of the Wits School of Governance: "[Ramaphosa] became the accidental deputy presidential candidate in Mangaung ... It was a difficult space that he then had to turn around to make his own space. Marikana was morally and ethically such a blotch on his name, which he still struggles to counter. He was also taken into the world of big capital in general.

"At least on the personal capture side there is no doubt that he and his side are prepared to pitch themselves absolutely against that."

But, Booysen says the Ramaphosa camp is also dependent on some of the Zuma-ists joining its ranks.

"They are hamstrung at the moment. Hopefully they won't remain owing to that grouping of people whose support they need to get in. Hopefully that won't compromise them in future, should they be the winners."

She says Ramaphosa is "not such a clear opposite" of Zuma. "There were times in the past, maybe he wasn't in government, but there could have been far stronger pronouncements against what is happening. But then, people come with eras and political cultures of an era. It was almost convenient for him to be out of government at the stage when much of this [state capture and corruption] was taking root."

It was almost convenient for him to be out of government at the stage when much of this [state capture and corruption] was taking root.Susan Booysen

Richard Calland, associate professor in the department of public law at the University of Cape Town, doesn't think Ramaphosa would be beholden to the ANC chairperson in Mpumalanga, David Mabuza, if he does decide to break away from the other members of the premier league and support Ramaphosa instead. "I'm pretty sure Cyril is smart enough to know that [getting Mabuza] would be a big win for him. He wouldn't be beholden to Mabuza because Mabuza would be just one in a bigger group."

A version of this project was first published on August 21.

In this package:

  • How does Ramaphosa manage people?

  • Ramaphosa biographer Anthony Butler on why the presidential hopeful left politics for business

  • How do people who know Ramaphosa make sense of his actions leading up to the Marikana killings?

  • The Cyril we don't see

  • The experts rate his campaign

  • We ask: How will he lead?

'Dirty tricks'

Cyril Ramaphosa should be more of a street fighter, Cheryl Carolus said in an interview with HuffPost SA, which took place before EFF leader Julius Malema last week (August 14) claimed that Ramaphosa had abused his ex-wife.

In a subsequent radio interview, Hope Ramaphosa said the claim was part of a "dirty tricks" campaign.

"Cyril is just not a violent person, basically ... Cyril would rather negotiate and settle things amicably with someone than beat them up. I was his wife and I had been his girlfriend for a long time. Cyril would not beat up a woman. He is very sensitive to women's issues. And he's not pretending when he is doing what he is doing now. It is actually something that is in his heart ...

"Never ever did Cyril lift a finger to hit me, beat me, even abuse me with words," she said.

Carolus said she had liked working with Ramaphosa because "he is one of the few male comrades who has always been super comfortable with women in his team. And [there was] never, as far as I know, even a hint of impropriety or a consideration of hitting on those women."

She expected her good male friends to speak respectfully about and with their wives. Carolus said Ramaphosa was "just lovely with and about" his wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe. "Neither of them live in the other one's shadow."

  • Professor Amanda Gouws, SARChI chair in gender politics at the University of Stellenbosch, says Ramaphosa is not viewed as someone who is concerned about gender issues. Not if the National Development Plan (Ramaphosa was deputy chairperson of the National Planning Commission) is anything to go by, she says. "It's completely gender blind." Read more on gender and the ANC leadership race at this link.
  • This profile was first published before The Sunday Independent reported on Ramaphosa's alleged affairs.

Why didn't Ramaphosa speak out against state capture sooner?

"I think for some period of time he was probably hesitant to participate in the debate on the subject. Understandably so. He has a role in government. He is part of the government structure. He is the deputy president of the country, appointed by [President Jacob] Zuma in that position. So, I think when you are in that position, you have to balance personal views with the responsibility of being in government. But I think as we get closer to the timeline of the elective conference his positions will become clearer as it has already emerged ... In my opinion, he has made his position very clear on something like the need for a judicial inquiry into state capture ... And he has followed up on that in many pronouncements ... He took a clear position on corruption. My reading is that one of his platforms [for the leadership race] is anti-corruption." Roelf Meyer, former chief negotiator for the National Party government in the talks leading up to democratisation (pictured with Ramaphosa below)

Gallo Images / Foto24 / Loanna Hoffman

"[Ramaphosa] and a number of other leaders of the ANC had been quite outspoken. But many people in the ANC still believe that you should not have those conversations in public. That you'll harm the ANC. And myself and a growing number of people obviously believe that that has in fact become an Achilles' heel and a weakness in the ANC ... I don't think their views were unknown to those who had to be told. But I did think it was highly problematic that they waited for so long. Because people who don't know them and who don't speak to them had absolutely no clue where they stand on this ... So people have no idea who has really gone bad and who's still left believing in the things that people died for in our country ...

"I don't think that he woke up late. I think he was wide awake. But the problem was that they thought the ANC was best served by having these conversations only in private. And it was wrong because I do think that the rot has gone deeper than it would have gone if we cut the wound open a long time ago by going public." Cheryl Carolus, a member of the group of ANC stalwarts that is critical of President Jacob Zuma

Photo gallery NDZ vs. CR: What they said See Gallery

  • Since the ANC's national policy conference, the frontrunners in the ANC leadership race have used public platforms to express their views on a number of contested issues, including radical economic transformation and (white) monopoly capital. See a snapshot of the events Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma prioritised after the ANC's national policy conference in July. Click through the slideshow above to compare Ramaphosa's and Dlamini-Zuma's views on key issues, based on his address to the South African Communist Party's (SACP) national congress and her lecture on the Freedom Charter, delivered in Kimberley.

Where was Cyril Ramaphosa the 'formidable negotiator' during Marikana?

The first time former president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) James Motlatsi sat around the negotiating table with Cyril Ramaphosa was in 1983.

Motlatsi, who had been politically active since he was 11 years old, thought he had seen it all. But when he left the meeting with the Chamber of Mines, he realised that "I was learning [from Ramaphosa]".

Motlatsi, who is Ramaphosa's campaign coordinator in the ANC leadership race, says Ramaphosa has a knack for reading a situation.

"He will be polite at the right moment and he will be shrewd at the same time. But he will always be reading the mood. He will take his adversary by surprise time and again."

Ramaphosa's opponents would be on the defensive, Motlatsi says. "They would negotiate on his terrain."

Kuben Pillay, who had worked with Ramaphosa as a lawyer in the early days of the NUM, tells the story of a meeting with Anglo American at the time of the 1987 strike during which Ramaphosa "threw all these bullets on the table".

Ramaphosa wanted to make a point about police violence on the mines, writes Anthony Butler in his biography of the former general secretary of the NUM.

"They came in with typical Anglo American style," Pillay told HuffPost SA. "Cyril really took them out at the knees. He completely stage-managed the tone of the meeting ...

"I remember him saying to Bobby [Godsell, industrial relations consultant]: 'Today you are not Bobby Godsell. You are Baas Bobby'."

Pillay says he is yet to meet a better negotiator when it comes to the "strategy, content and tone" of negotiation.

How then does he, and others who know Ramaphosa, make sense of Ramaphosa's actions leading up to the Marikana killings?

Read the full story here.

Gallo Images / The Times / Moeletsi Mabe
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the hearings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

Mangaung and Marikana

If Cyril Ramaphosa was considered to be good enough to be on President Jacob Zuma's ticket in Mangaung, why isn't he considered to be good enough to become president now?

This is the question former National Party government negotiator Roelf Meyer has about Zuma's support of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the ANC succession race.

Meyer and Ramaphosa formed a "working friendship" during negotiations between the apartheid government and the ANC before 1994.

He believes the chemistry that developed between them "was a material factor in helping the South African settlement. It might have taken much longer to come to a solution if that chemistry didn't exist."

Ramaphosa biographer Anthony Butler speculates that Marikana might have played a role in Zuma's choice in 2012. "So [former president Thabo] Mbeki always felt he could dispatch Zuma because so many corruption allegations and other personal issues were hanging over Zuma's head, and it may have been that Marikana and perhaps something else, but I assume Marikana primarily, gave Zuma an easy out -- or a way of dealing with Ramaphosa -- or at least he probably thought so."

What it's like to work for Cyril Ramaphosa

When Cosatu House was bombed in May 1987, it was "the most soul-destroying moment" for former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) lawyer Kuben Pillay.

"We had built up such an institution. NUM was a very sophisticated organisation. And then state security took us out."

The 1987 strike, in which up to 340 000 miners downed tools, was looming.

"But what [Cyril Ramaphosa, then general secretary of the NUM] did, he hired some two floors in downtown Joburg and he set us up [there]. All open plan. And he pulled the whole team together and took on the mining industry under those circumstances."

How did Ramaphosa rally the team?

"It's what he says. It's his demeanour. It's his ability to keep you on the straight and narrow and steady.

"It's a quality of leadership," says Pillay.

A common observation from people who know and have worked with Ramaphosa is that he surrounds himself with competent people.

Says Pillay: "He went after Marcel Golding [former CEO of e.tv], he went after Irene Charnley [CEO of Smile Communications] and he went after [former president] Kgalema Motlanthe. Despite the fact that we were dealing with a very unsophisticated environment, he surrounded himself with the absolute best that he could lay his hands on. All of whom in time became very prominent South Africans."

The fact that Ramaphosa does not hesitate to bring on board people who know more than he does, is one of his greatest strengths, says Cheryl Carolus, who was elected deputy secretary-general of the ANC when Ramaphosa was elected secretary-general for the second time, in 1994.

"He's quite a confident human being and he doesn't feel threatened by people who know more than he does or people with skills. In fact, he thrives on people with skills."

Gallo Images / Lefty Shivambu

'He behaved like he was one of us'

Phuti Mahanyele (pictured with Ramaphosa above) joined Millennium Consolidated Investments (MCI), the forerunner to Shanduka, in 2004. She would later become CEO of the Shanduka Group.

At the time, she had already decided to work for Standard Bank but she was persuaded to join Ramaphosa's fairly new venture instead after meeting with him. "The decision was not based on any factual reason you can put your [finger] on. But you just know that this is the right call. I remember my own father saying to me, Phuti, Standard Bank has been around for a long time. You'll get a salary every month, you'll get a pension fund ... But something just drew me to the opportunity of working with [Ramaphosa]."

What she found at MCI was a start-up environment. "We'd still be trying to figure out how to pay salaries and all sorts of things."

Her colleagues were from different backgrounds but what they shared was the ambition to create "a business of substance," she says. "We'd go for opportunities that kind of seemed so far-fetched and he [Ramaphosa] would allow us to think of all these crazy ideas. And then we'd try and see if it was possible. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't."

Mahanyele mentions Ramaphosa's humility more than once during the interview. "We were all young, except for him," she says, laughing. "But he engaged with us in a way that made us feel like we are equals."

She explains the annual internal review process to which Ramaphosa, who was executive chairperson at the time, also subjected himself. Board members would tell him what his strengths and weaknesses were. "Here he was, the largest shareholder but he behaved like he was one of us."

Mahanyele pauses for 18 seconds when asked what she thinks Ramaphosa's weaknesses are.

"I think that what I saw is that he really cares a lot about people and it can be a weakness in that people do good things but sometimes people do bad things as well and I guess that what helps [is] when you have a bit of a distance so that there's not too much room for huge disappointment or anything like that."

While Pillay says Ramaphosa can be "ruthless and decisive" when he needs to be, he also thinks Ramaphosa "gives people the benefit of the doubt, sometimes for too long". "I would have wanted sometimes for him to be a lot more ruthless and decisive. He tends to allow people to make small mistakes, myself included. I think in his current role and where we find ourselves as a country ... it is going to require a lot more decisiveness and I say it in the context of: If I was the president of South Africa, what are the top 10 things I would do immediately."

What does a Ramaphosa talking-to look like? Says Mahanyele: "He'll call you into his office and he will tell you exactly what his issue is and how he thinks it should be addressed and he'd like to know from you how you think it ought to be addressed as well. And he will expect you to come back to him and report back on how you have dealt with that issue.

"He's one of those people who will not go off and get upset and all of that in front of everyone. He'll be very upset but you will know; he'll engage with you. Because he is somebody who is always so friendly and supportive, when he gets upset, you feel it even more because it is such a huge departure. You just want to fix it, like immediately. I'd see some people in tears."

*Golding declined a request for an interview. Charnley was unavailable because she was travelling extensively.

R100 million from where?

When Ramaphosa announced, in 2004, that the Shanduka Group would donate R100 million to the Shanduka Foundation over ten years, Mahanyele thought he was making a mistake.

"I was a new employee in the company and I was thinking: If the company is worth under R50 million, where on earth are we going to get R100 million to give to the foundation ... But he said to me, this was the goal that he had and he knew that we would be able to create a business that would be able to provide that R100 million to the foundation. What actually happened was that the Shanduka Group was able to give much more than R100 million."

What she learnt through working with Ramaphosa is the ability to turn "something that you are thinking and believing into something of substance", says Mahanyele.

"I learnt a lot about discipline from him as well. Here was a man who had so many opportunities -- opportunities that were largely for him. You know, people wanted to be in business with him, not with anybody else. And yet he had this discipline of saying that because he had created this enterprise, every opportunity that came his way would go into that enterprise. Which essentially meant that he was sharing everything that could have come just to him and his family."

The Cyril we don't see

Cyril Ramaphosa and James Motlatsi are close friends but they seldom socialise for the sake of socialising.

"I think really socialising with Cyril, the last time it was 2011 when he made me my surprise 60th birthday at his farm," says Motlatsi.

They will meet when there is something to discuss "and then we can socialise", he says.

Here are 10 more things you might not know about Ramaphosa, according to people who are supportive of him:

Phuti Mahanyele, former CEO of the Shanduka Group:

1. "If I travel, I like to have comfort. He will go with his poor family to the most remote parts of Africa and they'll see amazing things. But it's not places with comfortable hotels."

2. "He's very domesticated. If you go to his farm or his home, he can tell you where the plate you're eating from was bought, the glass ... He's very much in tune with what happens in his house. And he loves it also. I remember [Ramaphosa] and his wife would hire an interior decorator and he would go with them to select things for the house so he's very much involved with that."

3. "[At Shanduka] he would call me at like one o'clock in the morning like it was 18:00 or 19:00. And he would talk like I'd just left, like we've been having a conversation. He works all hours. But we got used to it."

Cheryl Carolus, who served in the ANC's top six with Ramaphosa:

4. "People, regardless of their backgrounds, who have helped him to create the things that matter to him -- he is loyal to you to the death ... He does not abandon people."

5. "He's actually very kind and thoughtful in his relationships with people. He understands when people are sick, when people are not in a good space ... And that's why people are so loyal to him."

6. "Cyril likes nice things [but] he doesn't live a flashy lifestyle. Before he took up the position of deputy president, he didn't have a driver."

A current colleague of Ramaphosa, who spoke on condition of anonymity:

7. "He enjoys reading on a wide spectrum of subjects -- history, autobiography and on the economy. The biggest present you can give him, is a book."

8. "He is genuinely inquisitive, eager to learn about people, to learn about new situations and to learn about new technology. And he's able to internalise complex information very quickly and replay that information to others through simple explanation or analogy."

9. "An invitation alone is not enough to persuade him to participate in events or embark on programmes. He insists on previewing the eventual outcome and insists invariably that people's lives must be better as a result of his engagement in a particular situation."

10. "If you bring a problem to him, you have to be able to substantiate it with detailed factual information and be able to propose viable solutions. You never go to him with a problem without a solution and without detailed, factual information."

Getty Images
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a keynote address during the renaming ceremony of the Nelson Mandela University in July.

Anthony Butler: Who is Cyril Ramaphosa?

Professor Anthony Butler of the University of Cape Town is the author of a biography of Cyril Ramaphosa. But he says he's not sure if he "ever really got to the bottom of" who Ramaphosa is.

1. If someone only knows Ramaphosa as deputy president, who would you say he is, based on your research for the book?

Anthony Butler (AB): ... I think when he was younger he was one of those people who had an immediate charisma and compelling effect on people around him. I think he was someone who got what he wanted and who was always charming and I think to some degree that was moderated by his genuine religious commitment when he was young. I think that religion was a very important force in his early political career until maybe some way to university or perhaps even a bit later, 1976. Ideologically since moving across that boundary between liberation theology and black consciousness after university, I think he has never really settled on any firm ideological position. So I spoke to people who were really committed Marxists including one of his close friends who worked for the Stasi in East Germany and who remained a communist after the fall of the Soviet Union ... who insisted that Ramaphosa was pulling the wool over the eyes of business people and his liberal friends and that deep down he was a committed socialist. And if he was to rise to power, he would immediately move left and surprise everybody. But I also talked to business people who said exactly the opposite -- that Cyril was pulling the wool over the eyes of his leftist supporters. I think his closest friends were quite conservative. Particularly James Motlatsi ... his fellow creator of the mine workers' union and I think that perhaps Cyril is in fact a conservative. And perhaps a pragmatic conservative who pushes soft social-democratic possibilities, but very cautiously.

But he's able to speak to quite different audiences in a way that convinces them that he's one of them ...

Cyril has friends of all different kinds and he keeps them apart, so he will meet with his old friends from the University of the North on one day of the year ... he'll meet with his old white business palls and play golf with them and invite people in groups to his farm. And he will entertain quite, very different kinds of people apart from one another. And each of those different groups of people believes that Cyril is one of them or is sympathetic towards them. And he's maintained that really over his whole life. To a degree that suggests it's a big part of his personality -- that he's not able or willing to commit himself to any particular -- not just ideological position -- but any particular group of friends ... What kind of person is he? He's also quite capable of being an intimidating person but the face that he presents to the world is most usually charming and he's effective at charming almost anybody that he wants to charm ... The other thing about him is ... he's very energetic, persistent, determined, hard to stop when he sets his mind on something and unflappable ...

2. If it's hard to stop him when he puts his mind to something, why did he leave politics for business when he came up against competition?

AB: He came up against something much bigger than that ... The consultations that [former president Nelson] Mandela went through were very unlikely to favour Ramaphosa. [Thabo] Mbeki was the ascendant man in the ANC and I think Ramaphosa saw that Mandela was not going to back him. But at the same time I think he felt that he deserved it. I think he was genuinely angry, and not just Ramaphosa. There was a sentiment among people in the trade union movement that the exiles had come back, they were arrogant ... and that they expected to take over ... Mbeki really represented that expectation of the exiles. I think Ramaphosa and the people around him were very resentful ... He is and always has been deeply ambitious. And then he was essentially told by Mandela to leave ... Dr Motlana, Mandela's physician ... told me he was present at the meeting where Cyril was told to leave and he reported Mandela as saying that you're young enough to come back in 10 years.

And you can see that one of Ramaphosa's weaknesses was that he had a narrow power base ... Also, he was very young and in some respects a newcomer to the ANC.

So, I don't think he had much choice. He could have fought it out but he would have lost ...

3. What kind of a leader do you think he would be if he is successful in the leadership race?

AB: ... I suppose we can look at the past. And it's clear that he ... is somebody who is able to sustain concentration, to negotiate for long periods of time; to operate in different spheres simultaneously. So, he [has] a lot of skills that you need to be a president. He also has ... developed a sophisticated grasp of financial-legal issues ... I think maybe most important is [that his experience as] a constitutional negotiator indicated that he could manage a large and sophisticated team in complex and sustained negotiations. That's another unusual skill. People who have worked with him in business have often complained that he moves between micromanaging -- the one thing that always sticks in my head is how he insisted on choosing the clothes that the staff wore on his farm -- so, very minute attention to detail but at the same time ... failing to be sufficiently decisive, interestingly particularly in pursuit of his own interests. He didn't want to be seen to be pursuing his own interests ... But he took some very strong decisions about how Shanduka would operate. In particular, he had an overwhelmingly black executive management team that he placed trust in. Unlike many other BEE barons whose businesses were run by white executives ... So Cyril was always determined that his businesses should be black businesses and in fact that's one of the areas in which he showed real determination that progress should be made rapidly, not just in his own business, but he believes in BEE ... The other thing about him as a president, I think, is not just that he's rich, which may help in providing insulation against temptation but he's also ... a principled person. So, I don't think we want to exaggerate this -- in that politics and business require a degree of flexibility and negotiation of ethical quandaries that don't have simple solutions -- but ... he thinks too much of himself to act unethically just to make money. And he also doesn't care ... who's his friend, I don't think. He's never tried to build a constituency of sycophants and he wouldn't begin to do that. So, I think there are quite a lot of strengths. The problems I think are that at some point the decisions of presidents have to become ideological in one sense or another. If you're going to be a successful president, you have to impart some sense of direction to your administration and it remains unclear what he believes in. So, he believes in finding solutions. A classic example is the minimum wage negotiations ... He demonstrated his mastery of a certain kind of politics. Most politicians would not have been able to come out with a [solution] that was both reasonably rational but also protected his own interests quite successfully.

If you're going to be a successful president, you have to impart some sense of direction to your administration and it remains unclear what he believes in.Anthony Butler

But on the other hand, it wouldn't be good for the country if the whole presidency was a negotiation of that kind, because there are a large number of hard decisions that need to be taken and pushed through ...

And in order to do that, you would have to have a clear idea of what your project is ...

Paul Childs / Reuters
The deputy president presents a charming face to the world, says Anthony Butler.

Rate the campaign

The experts rate Ramaphosa's campaign in the ANC succession race.

"Ramaphosa has recently [this profile was first published in August] made it clear that he wants an alternative governance system to the prevailing one under [Jacob] Zuma. He has spoken out against the use of money to buy ANC delegates to the ANC conference. He has also spoken out against state capture. And he has positioned himself as a friend of the alliance partners. But he is faced with the contradiction that he is serving under Zuma's administration and takes instructions from him. His public opposition to Zuma's cabinet reshuffle was good but it also signified something else: his inability to get Zuma's ear and to ensure that the president does the right thing. His influencing power is therefore limited." – Mpumelelo Mkhabela, fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn), University of Pretoria

"There was a time when those on the left of the ANC, including the SACP, were quite sceptical about a Ramaphosa presidency because they were of the view that he was too close to business and that ideologically he would shift the ANC to the right. And that his instincts would not be in support of a working class agenda. Now, of course, things have changed because political reality in South Africa and in the alliance and in the ANC is being refracted through the Zuma prism.

"And all you have to do to gain credibility in South Africa today is to emerge as an opponent of Jacob Zuma ... It's very clear that he is trying to position himself as a candidate contrary to what the ANC under Zuma has become. He is even trying to repackage radical economic transformation ...

"He is trying to project himself as a candidate [under whose] leadership the ANC will be the antithesis of what the ANC has become under Zuma. If anything, what he seeks to benefit from is more the negative perception about Zuma under the ANC and much less about his own leadership qualities." – Aubrey Matshiqi, independent political analyst

"I think the fact that he has been invited to address various organisations and deliver several key note addresses indicates that he is seen as someone who could provide guidance and leadership to a political party that seems somewhat directionless at the moment. He also appears to be popular with various sectors of civil society." – Dr Lubna Nadvi, lecturer in political science, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures at an election rally of the ANC in Port Elizabeth.

How will he lead?

We ask: What kind of a leader might Ramaphosa be if successful in his bid to become ANC president and possibly president of the country?

"Ramaphosa will face conflicting expectations. As a former businessman, the business community will expect him to deliver business-friendly policies. As a former labour leader, Cosatu will expect him to be sympathetic to their interests. The latter will be crucial because they will expect him to compensate for his role in Marikana even though he was cleared by the Marikana commission. Should he not sing unions' tune, they have Marikana to revive as a stick with which to beat him. In the end, his leadership will depend on his ability to mediate the conflicting expectations. But when you are campaigning to be a president one can imagine that it's a good problem to have support from different constituencies even if they have different expectations. The advantage he has over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is that in addition to the support from the ANC alliance partners and the business sector, he has held senior positions in the top six. Dlamini-Zuma hasn't risen through the ranks of the top six. On the downside, however, he doesn't have the support of the leadership of the Women's League and the Youth League." – Mpumelelo Mkhabela

"Ramaphosa has a proven record of bringing different groups together ... He will have much more space [than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma] ... If Ramaphosa wins, the ANC will take longer to implode." – Professor William Gumede, chairperson of the Democracy Works Foundation

"He is somebody who can exercise leadership, who is prepared to give directions and guidance, who has a very clear vision of what should happen in the country. For that matter, he was one of the main contributors to the founding documents of our nation. And that in itself created the vision of the future South Africa." – Roelf Meyer, former minister of constitutional development

"He would really be focused on the needs of this country. One of the things he is passionate about is education [it is a big focus of the work of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation]. He has also been very focused on areas of agriculture ... I think his pulse would be on the right areas. Secondly, the thing that makes me in support of him becoming president is the fact that he seems to have the ability to choose the right people for the right jobs ... He is not someone who will try and do everything himself. He will surround himself with the people that he believes will undertake those roles properly ..." – Phuti Mahanyele, former CEO of the Shanduka Group