Ramaphosa, 65, was centrally involved in negotiating South Africa’s constitution and was the ANC’s secretary-general when Nelson Mandela was released from jail in 1992. A lawyer by training, Ramaphosa formed the National Union of Mineworkers, then the country’s largest trade union.
Ramaphosa, who held Mandela’s microphone at his first public address after 27 years in detention, was the Nobel Laurette’s preferred choice of successor. But he was overruled in favour of Thabo Mbeki, the country’s second democratic president.
Ramaphosa went into business and became a billionaire, ironically as a shareholder in mining companies, until he rejoined the ANC as Zuma’s deputy president in both the ANC and government five years ago.
Ramaphosa, who was elected president of the ANC in December by a slim majority, has already begun changes to revitalize the South African economy which has been in decline under Zuma. He was forced to finally institute an inquiry into state capture after losing a court bid against a ruling by South Africa’s graft ombudsman.
Zuma’s corruption- and scandal-tainted rule has seen South Africa’s economy stall, as unemployment and poverty have risen. The popular Ramaphosa is considered as a reformative force, who will restore the country’s fortunes and eradicate widespread corruption. On the morning he was sworn in as South Africa’s President, he was seen walking with former finance minister Trevor Manuel by a group of runners on the Sea Point promenade in Cape Town. The photograph, posted to Twitter by journalist Annika Larsen, has gone viral.
Referencing the country’s triumph over Apartheid, when Mandela’s first term as the country’s first democratic president was dubbed the “rainbow nation”.
“We have done it before and we will do it again,” Ramaphosa said in Parliament, “bonded by our common love for our country, resolute in our determination to overcome the challenges that lie ahead and convinced that by working together we will build the fair and just and decent society to which Nelson Mandela dedicated his life.”
Along with a focus to grow the economy, fix the country’s mining sector, address education, create jobs, especially for the youth, and increase investment, Ramaphosa signaled out the potential of the “digital industrial revolution”.
“Our prosperity as a nation depends on our ability to take full advantage of rapid technological change,” Ramaphosa said in his Sona speech. “This means that we urgently need to develop our capabilities in the areas of science, technology and innovation.”
To this end, he said the government would “soon establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission, which will include the private sector and civil society, to ensure that our country is in a position to seize the opportunities and manage the challenges of rapid advances in information and communication technology.”