Cyril Ramaphosa agreed to run as deputy leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress 16 years after he quit active politics for business when he failed to succeed Nelson Mandela as the nation’s president.
Ramaphosa, 60, accepted the nomination for the No. 2 post in the ANC, Thobile Thomas, a founder for the Elexions Agency that is running the election, told the party’s national conference in the central city of Bloemfontein today. Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and ANC Treasurer Mathews Phosa are also seeking the post, he said. The current party deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, withdrew from the race and will only challenge Zuma as party president, Thomas said.
The vote will be decided by 4,500 party officials, with results expected later today or tomorrow. Non-binding nomination ballots from ANC members at provincial meetings last month show President Jacob Zuma winning about 70 percent support for the top position and Ramaphosa about 58 percent. Motlanthe, 63, is also running against Zuma for the ANC leadership.
“Cyril has very good experience,” Boitumelo Seakge, a delegate from the central Free State province, said in an interview at the conference opening. “We are getting him ready to take over in five years. He’s superior to Kgalema.”
Ramaphosa’s re-entry into the mainstream political arena may help support investor confidence in an economy plagued by strikes and credit-rating cuts. His selection would position him to succeed Zuma as president in 2019.
Ramaphosa is South Africa’s second-richest black businessman after Patrice Motsepe, according to the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times. He owns a stake in mines operated by Lonmin Plc (LMI), the world’s third-biggest platinum producer, a coal-mining venture with Glencore International Plc (GLEN), and has the McDonald’s Corp. (MCD:US) franchise in South Africa.
He’s also the chairman of MTN Group Ltd. (MTN), Africa’s biggest mobile-phone company, and Bidvest Group Ltd. (BVT), and sits on the board of SABMiller Plc (SAB) and Standard Bank Group Ltd.
Ramaphosa, who studied law, helped found the National Union of Mineworkers in 1982 and led the biggest-ever strike in South Africa’s gold industry five years later. He was the ANC’s top negotiator with the white-minority government when they reached agreement to end apartheid and hold South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. He also worked on crafting the nation’s constitution following the vote.
He entered the corporate world after Thabo Mbeki won the contest to succeed Mandela, South Africa’s first post-apartheid president.
Ramaphosa maintained his ties with the ANC, serving on its 80-member national executive committee and heading its disciplinary appeals panel. He is also deputy head of the National Planning Commission, a government advisory body headed by former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.
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