Waiting for the President-in-waiting.

Author:Nevin, Tom
Position:COVER STORY: South Africa - Cyril Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa--agitator, activist, negotiator, leader and now South Africa's Deputy President. Is his succession to the top office when Zuma leaves a forgone conclusion or could he slip up on some banana skins? Tom Nevin throws the bones.

In December this year, Cyril Ramaphosa will have been South Africa's Deputy President for two years. His part in the political game as President Jacob Zuma's short stop has been unremarkable, but such is the fate of deputies wherever they are, so South Africa is no exception.

Many wonder, however, why the appointment was so long in coming; it's well known that Nelson Mandela had his eye on 'the young Turk' heavily favouring him as his right-hand man. But politics and ideology have a way of upsetting such apple carts and Ramaphosa was passed over, much to Mandela's sadness and disappointment.

For Ramaphosa, it was not for the want of trying or for having the most impeccable qualifications--academic, administrative and corporate. After less than three years in parliament, Ramaphosa resigned in 1997, first joining New Africa Investments and then starting the Shanduka Group.

And so, two decades on, the political rabble rouser, organiser extraordinaire, thorn in Apartheid's flesh and massively successful businessman finally finds himself at Zuma's side as South Africa's technocrat politician-in-waiting. The big question is: waiting for what?

It's unlikely that Ramaphosa would want to play second fiddle for no good reason. He sold a 25% share to the Chinese in the Shanduka conglomerate he created, for R245m ($2501) so money is not the issue (especially at a Deputy President's salary of not much more than R2m ($200,000) a year).

So it is tempting to speculate that he is on track as South Africa's next President. Zuma is in his second term and that means he must step down in three years, leaving a vacant throne, probably with Ramaphosa's name on it.

Logical choice

Such a succession won't happen seamlessly and the infighting could be messy, such is the currently divided nature of the party. But, if it comes to that, Ramaphosa's long and impressive CV shows he is more than a match when it comes to mixing it with the toughest opponents.

South Africa's Presidents have been a curious assortment. Nelson Mandela was the first and, for many, his term was all too short, Thabo Mbeki was the consummate academic and distant to the point of being out of touch with the people, and Zuma is often cast as being more style than...

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