Unions happy with Ramaphosa appointment

Newly-appointed ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Mike Goldwater)

Newly-appointed ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Mike Goldwater)

It's not only the ANC’s newly elected deputy president who is popping the champagne over his appointment. Business is elated to have to billionaire on board, while unions are pleased the former National Union of Mineworkers' secretary general has actively returned to politics.

“We are extremely excited about what effectively looks like a balance,” said Sandile Zungu, spokesperson for the Black Business Council, about the new leadership. “It [the top six] has included someone who has made a success in business and will bring that knowledge of business into the leadership of ANC,” he said, referring to Ramaphosa.

Mining analyst at Cadiz Corporate Solutions, Peter Major, said Cyril’s appointment was indeed good news for South Africa and for business.
“I think this news has helped our equity, currency and bond markets. Business definitely feels it’s better to have Cyril on the inside than the outside.

"He fully understands implications of crazy political talk and actions. And he knows full well the ramifications of policy changes like strategic nationalisations, minerals supertax, secrecy Bills and other."

Economist Richard Downing said Ramaphosa was the man to watch in the new leadership of the ANC.

His experience in business, as well as his involvement in negotiations around democracy in 1994 has provided Ramaphosa with invaluable knowledge and experience.

“This will be a sobering experience for the party and for investors, he’s the key person to change the direction in which things have been going up until now,” Downing said.

“There’s a lot depending on him – more than on President Zuma.”

Downing said it remains to be seen what strength Ramaphosa’s position will hold and what his influence of government will be.

Union background
South African Communist Party deputy secretary general Jeremy Cronin said Ramaphosa’s union background is very important and he has proved an "exceptionally effective negotiator" when he was at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa).

"His track record in business hasn’t been associated with corruption,” Cronin said. “And the Communist party recognises in the South African reality we need to be working with business.”

This, Cronin said, was not simply about playing to the business agenda, but building a national consensus.

Cronin said Ramaphosa had shown an ability to win over a broad sector of South Africa, although “business will try to claim him as neoliberals try to claim the Constitution”.

Roelf Meyer, whose constitutional negotiations with Ramaphosa paved the way for the first democratic elections in 1994, described Ramaphosa’s appointment as a “happy return to active politics”.

Meyer said Ramaphosa has a number of characteristics which could be utilised in his new role: commitment to the country to doing what is right in his mind and the country’s interest; he's willing to take responsibility and ownership to resolve a problem; and his inclusive approach to accommodate all parties and resolve problems.

“Cyril has the capabilities to function over and above his immediate and direct personal interests,” Meyer said.

Zungu said the council was also happy to see a strong element of continuity in the reappointments of Gwede Mantashe as secretary general and Jacob Zuma as president, which is good news for business.

“Stability has huge spin-offs for how the country is run. It will mean there won’t be fundamental policy changes with government,” he said.

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She holds a master's degree in journalism and media studies from Wits University. Her areas of interest range from energy and mining to financial services and telecommunication. When she is not poring over annual reports, Lisa can usually be found pottering about the kitchen. Read more from Lisa Steyn

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