In honour of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Oliver Tambo, the ANC has declared 2017 as ‘The Year of OR Tambo’. Several structures have launched Tambo Fridays to celebrate his life and contribution.
The Tambo Friday initiative seeks to deepen unity, promote an activist ANC and encourage cadre development.
It is part of the broader effort to rebuild and renew the movement.
We will profile events and leaders who demonstrate the values and qualities of OR Tambo.
The Businessperson and Social Entrepreneur
We take a closer look at the life of Cyril Ramaphosa, the ideal candidate to take the movement and the country forward. This week we look at his years as a successful businessperson, his development work and how he used business to bring about economic transformation.
“Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary General of the ANC, will be taking up a senior position in the private sector … once the constitution-writing process is completed.” – Nelson Mandela, Cape Town, 13 April 1996
At the age of 43 Ramaphosa left government to become deputy chairperson of investment holding company New Africa Investments Limited (Nail), chaired by Soweto businessperson Dr Nthato Motlana. While this move was undoubtedly the result of numerous factors, Ramaphosa’s interest in business was longstanding:
“What I’m doing is born out of the belief that the economy of this country is run by black people. If you go to any company – be it a furniture manufacturer, a car manufacturer, a mine or a food manufacturer – you will find that everything is made by black people. Black workers do everything in this country … Yet it is a few white people who control the economy.” (Butler (2007), Cyril Ramaphosa, p. 329)
“I had always said that one of the important areas where transformation had to take place was the economy … Political stability and social harmony is really dependant on the transformation that needs to take place in the economic sphere.” (Butler (2007), Cyril Ramaphosa, p. 329)
His business career was launched by Nail buying into Anglo American’s Johnnic – the first significant black economic empowerment deal of the new era, after joining the National Empowerment Consortium.
Ramaphosa became Johnnic’s non-executive chairperson, responsible for broad strategic direction, management of the board and selection and succession planning of senior executives.
During the 18 years that followed, Ramaphosa held positions in companies like MTN, South African Breweries, Standard Bank, Macsteel, Bidvest and Alexander Forbes.
He was also a non-executive board member of Lonmin, at which there was an unprotected strike in August 2012. Following the deaths of 10 workers and police officers, 34 mineworkers were killed at the hands of the police. Accusations that Ramaphosa used his political influence to have the police respond more aggressively were refuted by the Farlam Commission. This judicial commission of inquiry established that there was no basis – even on a prima facie basis – for the claim that Cyril Ramaphosa was responsible for any of the deaths on 16 August 2012. After examining the evidence of several witnesses, emails from Cyril Ramaphosa, phone records and two days of testimony from him, it said the accusations made against him “are groundless”.
In December of the same year he was elected ANC Deputy President. After being appointed Deputy President of South Africa in May 2014, Ramaphosa stepped back from business to avoid a conflict of interest. In November 2014, he disposed of his interests in Shanduka Group. Founded by Ramaphosa in 2001, Shanduka owned stakes in mining entities, financial institutions, McDonald’s South Africa and a Coca-Cola bottling.
The Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, formerly known as the Shanduka Foundation, was established by Ramaphosa in 2004. The Foundation is an independent non-profit organisation that greatly improves lives by creating opportunities through education and enterprise development.
The Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation remains a partner of choice for social change through the Adopt-a-School Foundation, Kagiso Shanduka Trust, Thari Programme, Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust and Black Umbrellas. The Foundation has had and continues to have a meaningful impact on the economic and social development of South Africa. Together with its partners, it continues to make a tremendous difference in the lives and circumstances of young black South Africans.
“Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation started as a journey of small beginnings and big dreams. The story of a child learning to read in a classroom made of bricks and mortar, in a township where the school was once a shack, of university graduates fulfilling the promise of their bursaries by taking up those coveted corporate positions and the young entrepreneur setting up shop with the support and advice of an organisation that cared enough to make a difference.” – Cyril Ramaphosa.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment: Cyril Ramaphosa – the future ANC President.