Cyril Ramaphosa: 10 Lesser Known Facts About Him


Cyril Ramaphosa is a South African icon, a politician, an activist and a renowned businessman. He was born in Soweto, Johannesburg on November 17 1952 to a retired policeman Samuel Ramaphosa and Erdmuth. Majority of the people know him for obvious reasons, which are politics and businesses. But there are other facts which are unknown to many, especially during his early life. In fact, Ramaphosa is his father’s name, his real name is Cyril Matemala.

Some of these Facts Include:

1. He Became a Prominent Figure in Politics Because of his Work.

Cyril Ramaphosa was born in 1952 and was elected general secretary of NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) in South Africa in 1982 at the age of thirty. He became prominent in extra-parliamentary politics at thirties through his hardwork in NUM and the COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions). He was later elected secretary-general in 1991 of ANC (the African National Congress).

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2. His Father was a Policeman who was Working with the Apartheid Regime.

Ramaphosa’s father was a policeman who was helping the apartheid regime to implement their laws and orders which were meant to humiliate Africans while his son was an activist at school. This was a contrast to his father’s occupation. At the university, Cyril Ramaphosa was always involved in student politics, in 1974 he became chairman of black consciousness organisations, these were SASO (the South African Student’s Organization) and the SCM (Student Christian Movement). Steve Biko was his key influencer at that time just like his peers. He served on many committees of BPC (the Black People’s Convention) in the year 1974.

3. He Was Detained while he Was a Student.

Mid 1970s, along with the other student activists, Cyril spent some time in prison as a detainee. First in 1974, Cyril was detained for 11 months in Pretoria Central Prison. In the year 1976, after the Soweto uprising, he was detained for six months in the John Vorster Square detention center Johannesburg.

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4. He Took a Long Time to Complete his Degree in Law.

He completed his degree by correspondence through the University of South Africa in 1981 after nine years.

5. He Left Private Legal Practice and Joined the CUSA to Fight for his People.

Cyril was disillusioned with the private legal practices and joined the CUSA as a legal adviser. This was an independent trade union.

6. Ramophosa has to be the First Detail to Allow Change of Policy in the Mining Sector.

In 1982, so as to transform labor relations in South African mining sector, Chamber of Mines together with South African Government said that they were to allow black African who were working in the mine to join the unions. Since, before union rights were denied to African origin mineworkers. The workers were lowly paid, exploited and lived in extremely poor conditions. To change the policy a number of unions prompted and organised the country’s over 650,000 black mineworkers. The CUSA has to detail Ramaphosa so as how to undertake that task, and in the middle of the same year NUM (the National Union of Mineworkers) was born.

7. He was the First Secretary-General of the National Union of Workers which Became the Fastest Growing Union in the World.

After its formation, Cyril became the first secretary-general of this union. As the first general secretary, Ramaphosa embarked on organizing  public activities and collective bargaining. Under his leadership the NUM grew rapidly by learning from past mistakes. Within 5 years that union had a membership of more than 350,000 workers, and that made it the fastest growing union not only in South Africa but also in the whole world. It also became South Africa’s largest and most powerful union. The union focused on wages and good working conditions as well as jobs that were reserved for whites only for many years. The union won some victories in many courts giving them even more bargaining power.

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8. Ramaphosa Led one of the Biggest Strike in the Mining Industry

After the breakdown of talks about wages in 1987 between the union and the Chamber of Mines, Cyril and James Motlatsi, the NUM president led the NUM out on a 3-weeks working strike which was the longest and cost a lot in the mining industry history. The strike was costly for the union also. After the strike, the mining industry fired more than 40,000 workers. After this strike the union life became much more difficult for officials and organisers.

9. The Union Broke Up once Ramaphosa Left.

When Ramaphosa joined the national political arena in 1985 the two unions, NUM and CUSA broke and joined COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions). In 1986 Ramaphosa was part of a COSATU delegation to meet the ANC leadership in Lusaka, Zambia. In 1987 the NUM membership elected the imprisoned ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, as its honorary life president and endorsed the political platform outlined in the ANC’s “Freedom Charter.”

10. Ramaphosa was the one who Introduced Nelson Mandela to the People after his Release.

After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and was due to make his first ever public speech in thirty years from City Hall in Cape Town, Cyril Ramaphosa introduced this veteran politician to the people. Ramaphosa was chosen as secretary-general of ANC. This was the second position, next to president Mandela.

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