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Cyril Ramaphosa – Biography Of The Fifth President of The Republic Of South Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa is a South African politician, businessman, anti-apartheid activist, trade union leader, and philanthropist. He is the incumbent president of the Republic of South Africa. Additionally, he is the President of the African National Congress and the Chairperson of the African Union.

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Similarly, Cyril served as the Deputy President of South Africa from 2014 to 2018. Also, he was the former Chairman of the National Planning Commission responsible for strategic planning for the future of South Africa

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Altogether, Cyril is one of the prominent men in South Africa. He was a businessman whose net worth was $450 million as at 2015 according to Forbes Africa’s Richest Men ranking.

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Cyril Ramaphosa Background

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was born November 17, 1952, in Soweto, Johannesburg, SA. He is the second of three children, and was born to Samuel and Erdmuth Ramaphosa.

Cyril started his education at the Tshilidzi Primary School then moved to the Sekano Ntoane High School, Soweto. He also attended the Mphaphuli High School, Venda and headed the Christian Movement.

Subsequently, he attended the University of the North (Turfloop), Limpopo Province to study Law in 1972. At the university, Cyril joined student politics and organised rallies which later got him convicted for Terrorism Act, twice.

Thereafter, he worked as a law clerk for Jo’burg firm of Attorneys while he continued with his legal studies at the University of South Africa (UNISA), where he obtained the B.proc. Degree in 1981.

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Personal Life

Cyril was previously married to Hope Ramaphosa (1978 – 1989). Then, between 1991 – 1993, he got married to a business woman, Nomazizi Mitshotshisa, who is now late.

Currently, he is married to Tshepo Motsepe, a medical doctor and the sister of the South African mining billionaire Patrice Motsepe.

Altogether, he has five known children. Also, he is a polyglot, known for including variety of South African languages in his speeches.

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Cyril Ramaphosa Early Career

After the completion of his education for law degrees, he joined the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) and served as a Legal Advisor. In 1982, he began the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) based on the request of the Council, CUSA.

Also, he became the first General Secretary of the group and was instrumental in establishing the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

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Go from idea to starting your business in 30 days

Aside that, he also served as the chairperson of the National Reception Committee, and coordinated the release of Nelson Mandela. Then, he was the ANC Secretary General and he became the head of the ANC’s negotiation team at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) and other multi-party talks.

Also, in 1994, in SA’s first democratic elections, he was the Chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly and oversaw the drafting of the South African constitution.

Cyril Ramaphosa

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Political Position

Cyril was appointed the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa by former President Jacob Zuma on May 25, 2014. He was also made leader of the Government Business in the National Assembly in accordance to the constitution.

After Jacob Zuma’s resignation, Cyril was elected unopposed as the President of the Republic of South Africa in February 2018, a position he holds to date.

Amongst other notable achievements, at the 2020 African Union Summit, President Cyril pledged his support for the African Continental Free Trade Area. Also, he declared his support to ensure gender equality in South Africa.

Aside that, he has also made land reformation and the economy his main priorities, as well as dealing with the outbreak of Listeriosis which has claimed the lives of over 100 people in South Africa as at March 2018.

Subsequently, he launched the Youth Employment Serves (YES), an initiative to employ youths and give them experience in the working field. He also launched the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE), an initiative to respond to the sanitary challenge facing the poorest schools in SA.

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Notable Positions

Cyril is a skilled negotiator and strategist. He acted as the ANC’s Chief Negotiator during South Africa’s transition to democracy in 1994. Also, he built up National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the biggest and most powerful trade union in South Africa.

Aside that, he has also led in the following capacities;

  • First Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Business Council.
  • The Vice Chairman of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDs.
  • Deputy Chairperson of the National Planning Commission in 2010
  • Former Chair of the Board, MTN
  • Former Member of the Board, Lonmin
  • Elected Deputy President of the African National Congress, 2012
  • Elected President of the African National Congress, 2017
  • Co-Chair, 28 member Commission on the Future of Work Set up by the International Labour Organisation.
  • Elected President of the National Assembly, 2020
  • Chairperson of the African Union, 2020

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Entrepreneurial Life

After about three years in parliament, Cyril resigned in 1997. Firstly, he joined New Africa investments, before he founded the Shanduka Group.

The Shanduka group was founded in 2001. It’s a company that owns stakes in mining entities, financial institutions, McDonald’s South African subsidiaries, and coca-cola bottling plants.

After his appointment as the deputy president of South Africa by President Jacob Zuma in 2014, he stepped back from his business pursuits to avoid conflicts of interest.

First, he stepped down as Chairman of Shanduka Group, in 2015 and sold his stake. The company then merged with the Pembani Group to form a Pan African Industrial Holdings Group with $900 million in assets.

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Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation

Cyril is the founder and chairperson of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation. It was previously called the Shanduka Foundation and established in 2004 by the Shanduka Group. However, the name was changed to the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation in 2015.

It is an independent public benefit organisation that aims to improve lives by creating opportunities through education, social and business development. The vision is to be innovative and effective agent of social and economic change, focused on improving lives and creating opportunities in the communities.

As a result, it creates social change through its six implementing partners; The Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, The Adopt-a-School Foundation, Kagiso Shanduka Trust, Thari Programme, Black Umbellas, and the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust.

In summary, the foundation has made meaningful contributions to the social and economic development of South Africa, as well as in the lives of disadvantaged individuals and communities. Hence, it remains a partner for social change from classroom to business.

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Awards And Recognition

Cyril has gained widespread recognition and has been awarded numerous awards and honorary doctorate degrees. For instance, he was installed as the first Chancellor of University of Mpumalanga in 2016. Also, he has received honorary doctorates degrees from the following institutions.

  • University of Natal
  • University of Port Elizabeth
  • National University of Lesotho
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Venda
  • National University of Ireland Galway
  • University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • University of Pennsylvania

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Also, other recognitions include;

  • Olof Palme Prize, 1987
  • Voted 34 in the Top 100 Great South Africans.
  • Time 100 Most Influential Persons in the World, 2007
  • National Order of the Baobab in Silver, 2009
  • One of the richest men in South Africa, 2015
  • One of Africa’ 50 Richest, Forbes 2015 but dropped off in 2016
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Regenesys Business School, 2017
  • The Symbol of Black Capitalism in South Africa, BBC, 2018
  • Universal Health Care Award, The Access Challenge, New York, 2019

See Also: Amina J Mohammed – Biography Of The Deputy Secretary-General Of United Nations

Cyril Ramaphosa Quotes

“The time for change is upon us and we all have a role to play to create and contribute to the country we believe in. I believe everyone has the capability to collaborate and join hands to bring about meaningful change.”

“No action is small when it comes to changing the world. I’m inspired when I meet an entrepreneur who is succeeding against all odds.”

“To get education to sink deep into the minds of a nation takes a generation and more.”

“You can never have unity if you want things to go your way.”

“…Only an educated people, a skilled people, an enlightened people, can be a free people.”

“Young people must feel that they can be real actors in our economy and be creative and be imaginative and be innovative.”

“Leaders are meant to lead from the front, but at the same time, they are also meant to listen to what their followers are saying.”

“There are times when leadership needs to take a bold move forward. And there are times when the leader needs to act on the basis of what the grassroots say. You need to have your political thermometer constantly in the political waters to know when to give leadership in what way.”

“An award for leadership is not only a recognition of past achievement. It is also a statement of intent.”

See Also: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Biography Of The First Female President In Africa And Nobel Laureate

Cyril Ramaphosa

Lessons From The Life Of Cyril Ramaphosa


In business, Ramaphosa’s success was as a result of his entrepreneurial vision. He grew through the acquisition of businesses that enhance shareholder’s value.

Owning to this vision, he was diverse with his business portfolio. For instance, through the Shanduka Group, he invested in various sectors like banking, energy, real estate, telecom, insurance e.t.c.

In addition, he paid for a 20-year master franchise rights of McDonald’s’ South African restaurants and sat as the Chairman of other companies like The Bidvest Group Limited and MTN.

Basically, his entrepreneurial vision propelled his diverse investment in different businesses, which eventually turned him into a successful entrepreneur.

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Listening Skill

One of the attributes that set leaders apart is listening skills and the ability to hear the complaints of the people. On the emergence of Cyril as the President at the ANC, people saw him as a Messiah because he listens.

Moreover, in his speech, he noted, “we have learnt our lessons, we have heard the people of South Africa, we have heard the very clear message of what they expect from us, they were saying ‘President: we want jobs’… that is what we are going to do , we are going to work hard to create jobs for our people.”

Similarly, people want leaders who can listen and act accordingly, this way they can believe in the government and the future of their country.

See Also: 100 Profitable business ideas to start now for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors.


Cyril has shown his diligence and the ability to deliver whatever is committed to his hands. This he demonstrated through his all-round success especially in building the Union of Mineworkers, the African Union Congress, and his activeness during the apartheid struggle. His inauguration as the President was filled with expectations and hope that he will also build South Africa.

Most times, before we ask people to trust us, we must demonstrate to them that we are worthy of their trust. We can only show that we are worthy by showing evidence of past work. The same thing applies to entrepreneurs; before you can get that big contract or land that big deal, you must show that you are able to handle the small tasks.

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