Cyril Ramaphosa Joins Kenyan Mediation Team
Photo: Shanduka Group
JOHANNESBURG, 1 February 2008 (IRIN) – South African Cyril Ramaphosa has joined the mediation team led by Kofi Annan to deal with Kenya’s post-election crisis.
Once billed as the man most likely to succeed Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, Ramaphosa, 55, has the reputation of being a tough negotiator and a skilful strategist. He and Roelf Meyer, from the former National Party, played a key role in negotiating the end of apartheid and a new constitution in the early 1990s.
The negotiating skills of Ramaphosa and Meyer, both lawyers, acquired a towering reputation and soon after the African National Congress (ANC) took office in 1994 they were called to mediate the peace process in strife-torn Northern Ireland from 1995 to 1997.
“It was his ability to drive people right to the edge and make the stakes really high, so that [differing] parties have no choice – and it was that quality that drove the negotiations [in South Africa in the early 1990s],” said Mark Gevisser, political commentator and author. “He has ice in his veins – besides, he has also really learnt the art of finding language to express what both sides want without fudging the issues.”
After founding the National Union of Mineworkers in 1982 and building it into South Africa’s biggest trade union, Ramaphosa was elected secretary-general of the ANC in 1991 and subsequently led the party’s negotiating team during transitional talks with the National Party. He opted for a career in business soon after Thabo Mbeki was anointed Mandela’s successor and continues to play a prominent role in the private sector.
“Cyril is a very clear thinker and is very committed to bringing about a peaceful resolution,” said Meyer, former Minister of Provincial and Constitutional Affairs in the government of national unity that took office in 1994, who has worked closely with Ramaphosa. “He has the ability to see differences almost immediately, and the way forward.”
Jeremy Cronin, an ANC and South African Communist party leader, said Ramaphosa’s role in promoting the peace process in Northern Ireland had been complimented time and again by Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader.
Cronin noted Ramaphosa’s toughness, “which might really be what is required in Kenya, and Cyril’s ability to bring a sense of appreciation of the big picture of what really is at stake” and said Ramaphosa also had a “tremendous ability to listen – he has the right mix of patience and steely resolve.”