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Cyril Ramaphosa: The 22 facts you might not know

President Cyril Ramaphosa

He serves as the 5th post-apartheid President of the Republic of South Africa

1. President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was born on the 17th November 1952 in Soweto where he grew up. He attended Tshilidzi Primary School and Sekano Ntoane High School in Soweto. In 1971 he matriculated from Mphaphuli High School in Sibasa, Venda.

2. In 1972 he registered to study law at the then University of the North (popularly known as Turfloop). He joined the Student Christian Movement (SCM). Like other concerned and politically conscious students from the community of oppressed black majority, he also joined the South African Student Ourganisation (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 the Viva Frelimo rallies.

3. In 1976 following the Soweto student uprisings, he was again detained and held for six months at the infamous John Vorster square under Terrorism Act. After his release, he became a law clerk for a Johannesburg firm of attorneys and continued with his law studies through correspondence with the University of South Africa (UNISA), where he obtained a 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 its Legal Department.

4. In 1982 CUSA requested comrade Cyril to start the process of establishing a union for mineworkers. He recognised the importance of being part of the task of organising African mine workers, who were one of the most exploited sectors of industrial workers. At the time, the mining industry was like a prison, with workers recruited from rural areas along tribal lines and very difficult to organise. The last industrial action by African Mineworkers was in 1946 under the banner of the African Mineworkers Union led by Uncle J.B Marks who was a trade union, ANC and SACP leader.

5. The task of mobilising and organising mine workers led to the birth of the National Union of Mineworkers (popularly known as NUM). Cde Cyril was elected as the founding NUM General Secretary which was affiliated to the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA).

6. He was the NUM General Secretary from 1982 to 1991. Under his leadership, NUM membership grew from 6,000 in 1982 to 300,000 in 1992. Cde Cyril Ramaphosa was arrested in the then Lebowa homeland on a charge of organising or planning to take part in a meeting in Namakgale which was banned by the local magistrate. Together with NUM leaders such as James Motlatsi and Elijah Barayi, they led one of the biggest and longest strike by mine workers in 1987.

7. When the unity talks among various unions and Trade Union federations from different orientations and traditions started to ultimately form a new and bigger trade union federation, NUM was an important part of those talks. The unity talks ultimately led to the formation and launch of Cosatu in 1985. In March 1986 cde Cyril was part of the COSATU delegation which met the African National Congress leadership in Lusaka, Zambia. He was part of the Cosatu leadership which kept in contact with the SACTU and SACP leadership who assisted with guidance to leaders of trade unions inside the country.

8. Under his capable leadership, NUM was part of thee unions within Cosatu which was at the forefront of the discussion on its political orientation which led to the important discussion on the relevance of the Freedom Charter. These discussions led to the NUM disaffiliating from CUSA in 1985.

9. Under his leadership, NUM was also part the first Cosatu affiliated unions which adopted the Freedom Charter as a guiding document for the type of South Africa to be struggled for and build. These discussions later led to the adoption of the Freedom Charter by Cosatu.

10. Cde Cyril was part of the Cosatu leadership which propagated for a close relationship with the United Democratic Front (UDF) which was launched in 1983. This relationship was very important during the 1980s, particularly during the state of emergency when it was difficult to openly mobilise and organise communities.

11. NUM and Cosatu were part of the various UDF campaigns such as troops out of townships and villages, release of political prisoners and detainees, saving of political prisoners on death row, lifting of the state of emergency and unbanning of the liberation movement. In 1988 he was part of the Committee of Soweto leaders which met with the Soweto Mayor to discuss the ongoing rent boycott.

12. Cde Cyril also played an important role as part of the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) leadership during the release from prison of national leaders such as Ntate Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba (who were released between 1988-89). He was appointed as Convener of the National Reception Committee (NRC) which prepared and managed the release of President Nelson Mandela from Victor Verster prison in February 1990.

13. In 1991 at the 48th ANC National Conference (the first ANC Conference on South African soil as an unbanned organisation), comrade Cyril was elected as the ANC Secretary General (a position which was occupied for many years by ANC veteran and stalwart Ntate Alfred Nzo. His election as Secretary General was part of the process to integrate leaders from prison, exile and internal mass democratic formations.

14. He was also appointed as the Convener of the ANC negotiating team at the Congress for the Democratic South Africa (CODESA) which drafted the Interim Constitution leading to the first democratic elections on the 27th April 1994.

15. After 1994 he was appointed as the Convener of the Constituent Assembly tasked with a mandate to draft the final Constitution which was adopted in May 1996.

16. After the adoption of the Constitution, cde Cyril Ramaphosa was deployed by the ANC leadership to participate in the economic sector through business (which was and remains unrepresentative of the demographics of the country).

17. He was thereafter reelected at all ANC National Conferences (1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012) to the ANC NEC and NWC. He was also appointed to the ANC NEC Finance and Fundraising Subcommittee and the NDCA.

18. In 2010 he was appointed as the Chairperson of the National Planning Commission (which led the process to draft the National Development Plan, 2030).

19. In 2012 he was elected as ANC Deputy President at the 53rd National Conference held in Mangaung

20. In 2014 he was appointed as the Deputy President of the Republic.

21. At the ANC 54th National Conference held in December 2017, he was elected as the ANC President.

22. On Thursday, 15th February 2018 he was elected by the South African Parliament as the President of the Republic of South Africa.