South Africa: President Cyril Ramaphosa  

Cyril Ramaphosa first entered the political arena while studying law at the then University of the North (Turfloop) through the political activist group, the South African Students Organization, a group aligned to black consciousness ideology.  Ramaphosa continued his political activism after graduating law school, joining the Black People’s Convention.  Ramaphosa was jailed for sixth months for his advocacy in this group. After being released from prison Ramaphosa helped found the National Union of Mineworkers, leading it to become the largest trade union in South Africa, and serving as its general secretary for over a decade.  Ramaphosa’s prominence led to his appointment as general secretary of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1991.  After 1991, Ramaphosa went on to act as the lead negotiator for the ANC in the redrawing of South Africa’s post-Apartheid constitution. After narrowly losing the competition to become President Nelson Mandela’s deputy in 1994, Ramaphosa returned to the National Union of Mineworkers.

In 2012 Ramaphosa made a political comeback, first becoming deputy president of the ANC, then president of South Africa.  Ramaphosa continued his long tradition of socialist activism as president.  He has raised the national minimum wage and increased labor standards throughout the country.  Ramaphosa also made clear his intention to decrease the land disparity between black and white citizens, although he did make clear that redistribution of land would be carried out in a way that ensured food security.  Ramaphosa has pursued economic growth by increasing business confidence, attracting new foreign investment, increasing trade, and decreasing unemployment.  Ramaphosa has also made clear his intention to close South Africa’s fiscal gap, trim its state owned enterprises, and eliminate corruption.  He has identified the mining industry as South Africa’s sunrise industry. In the context of foreign policy, Ramaphosa publicly supports Palestine, South Sudan peace talks, and the self-determination attempts of West Sahara. Ramaphosa also intends to increase trade with Cuba, and condemns the reinstitution of the U.S. embargo.

Ramaphosa has placed fiscal stability at the top of his agenda as president. While the inflation rate in South Africa has stayed low, Ramaphosa also wants to expand economically, while also keeping the budget deficit manageable. Ramaphosa has stated his plan to re-industrialize South Africa in an efforts to win over the labor movement and improve the economy. As economic growth is a central platform of Ramaphosa’s agenda, it is likely this will be an important theme of his discussions with other G20 leaders in Argentina. 

“We want to renew our vows with our people. We want to reconnect with our people. We want to get our people excited again.”

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