/ 31 October 2007

Ramaphosa keeps mum on nomination

Businessman Cyril Ramaphosa refused to be drawn on his nomination as African National Congress president on Wednesday night at the launch of a fund-raising campaign for the University of Venda.

He was hounded for an answer from the minute he set foot through the door of Gallagher Estate, in Midrand.

”When is this conference?” he jokingly asked when quizzed, as he arrived, on whether he would be at the ANC national congress in Polokwane — where the party will choose its new leadership in December.

”I think you should all consider visiting the university. That is what I would really like,” Ramaphosa told reporters.

Ramaphosa, who succeeded ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu as Chancellor of the rural university, was wooing investors to contribute to an ”ambitious” campaign to raise R1-billion for the institution.

He insisted that all he wanted to talk about was education, when he was again hounded about his decision later in the evening.

He did not understand why people so desperately wanted to know whether he would stand. ”I honestly don’t understand,” he said.

‘You are harassing me’

”I came here to a function of the university and I am talking about education,” he reiterated.

Although Ramaphosa had intended facing the cameras after addressing the crowd, he instead sent out the University of Venda Foundation’s chairperson Mashudu Ramano with the message: ”You are harassing me.”

”If you ask him about the University of Venda, he will come. If you ask him about politics, he is not going to talk to you,” he told reporters.

They had earlier tittered about how to interpret the aside by the master of ceremonies’: ”… There is nothing worse than running a race only to discover that it was not the race you were supposed to run.”

However, Ramaphosa did not allude to the presidential race in his address to 400 donors — who contributed R1-million to the campaign through buying a table at the function.

South Africa house

”What we are seeking to do is to build a South Africa house. We are involved in building a South Africa house together,” he said.

The first master builder of the ”South Africa house” from 1994 was former president Nelson Mandela, said Ramaphosa.

”He built the foundation, but he didn’t do it alone. He had a lot of people who did it with him … Yes, he had Thabo Mbeki, who I would call the master craftsman,” he said.

Mandela also had former South African Communist Party general secretary Joe Slovo, who died in January 1995, ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma and Education Minister Naledi Pandor to assist him.

”This house is still under construction,” he said, adding that one of its key foundations was education and that it had to be ensured that its foundations were strong.

He said if there was one thing for which he could not forgive the apartheid government, it was blunting the full capabilities of the nation by denying its people a decent education.

It was this which Mandela and all others, including Mbeki, had been seeking to correct since 1994.

”All of us, therefore, should be involved …[in] build[ing] this South Africa house so future generations can have a gift that will enable them to face up to the challenge of the global economy in which we are today,” he said.

He described the Department of Education’s R400-million contribution to the University of Venda’s campaign as yet another demonstration of its commitment to the building of the ”South Africa house”.

A true, rural university, it was a place where the education delivered was made relevant to the environment ”in which the real people of our country live”, he said.

He said it was in the rural areas where poverty impacted on people’s lives in the ”most unbelievable way”; where unemployment was rife and many people faced hopelessness and desperate situations.

He said the university was like a beacon — of hope and of the good things — which could happen in the future of the country.

The university intends using the R1-billion for teaching research and student residential buildings, improved staffing and to upgrade teaching and research equipment.

The ANC’s Gaby Shapiro branch executive committee -‒ of which Kader Asmal is a member — nominated Ramaphosa for the presidency by a majority of votes on October 18.

The Gaby Shapiro branch is in Rondebosch, Cape Town, and is one of 200 ANC branches in the Western Cape.

The ANC’s provincial general council will, at the end of November, consider all branch nominations and decide who to nominate for consideration by delegates at the national congress.

In September, Ramaphosa reportedly expressed disinterest when asked about the succession race.

”Like all ANC members, I am confident that this matter will be clarified in accordance with the policies, organisational culture and processes of the ANC,” he was quoted as saying at the time.

Ramaphosa served as an ANC MP from 1994 to 1996, after a three year stint as the party’s secretary general. He played a crucial role negotiations leading up to South Africa’s first democratic election in April 1994. – Sapa