CNN puts Ramaphosa in the hot seat
Billionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, who was recently elected deputy president of the ANC, sat down this week for an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour to discuss South African politics, business and the aftermath of the mining unrest that rocked Lonmin, a platinum producer in which Ramaphosa is an investor and a director.
Below is an edited version of the interview based on a transcript provided to Business Report by CNN yesterday. The interview originally aired on Tuesday.
Amanpour: Let me ask you, sir, what went wrong, Mr Ramaphosa, with the Rainbow Nation and all its promise? Do you accept that you have massive challenges ahead?
Ramaphosa: I accept that we have massive challenges. Not everything is absolutely where we want it to be. I characterise our situation as the glass is half full. The glass is not half empty, meaning that in the past 18 years, we have achieved a great deal. We have undone the ravages of apartheid in many, many ways.
There are still challenges that face our country: inequality, unemployment, which is very, very high, as well as all the other attendant problems, poverty.
Amanpour: Mr Ramaphosa, the ANC has celebrated 100 years of being a liberation party. And yet, by all accounts, and certainly by the critics of the current government and the current president, the ANC has started really a major assault on the institutions of democracy, whether it’s the press, whether it’s the judiciary, whether it’s handing out money, you know, government contracts in reward to – for loyalty.
Let me ask you to react to what I asked former president De Klerk, a man you negotiated with in the transition to democracy. I asked him why even fellow anti-apartheid strugglers, like bishop Desmond Tutu, said that the ANC is even worse today than the apartheid regime.
Ramaphosa: As I said earlier, the ANC has been the first to say that we have challenges. There are problems that we are facing. There are weaknesses within our structures. We need to re-establish the moral compass of our organisation. The ANC has bared its own soul, its own breast and has admitted a lot of those things. Now that, to me, is indicative of a party that is quite ready to start a process of correcting quite a lot of those perceptions, quite a lot of those things.
And some of them are really perceptions. But perceptions, obviously, in life and in politics, can soon be a reality. And we need to address them.
Amanpour: Let me ask you about yourself. As I said, you are the undisputed champion of the anti-apartheid movement.
What you did in the 80s, founding the national union of miners, the massive mining strike, all those amazing things that you took part in to end the apartheid regime, to have that negotiation and transition to a peaceful democracy, to help draft and write the constitution, which you did, many people are very, very praiseworthy of your record.
But you do also come with some baggage, Mr Ramaphosa, and that is recently, of course, last year, we had these violent incidents at the mines and particularly in one on which you sit on the board, where 34 people were killed; some 78 people were injured as they were protesting very bad working conditions and asking for basic restitution.
E-mails that are published which purport to carry your messages to the board and to the police are fairly damning. You talk about concomitant action against these protesters. You call them criminal.
Explain that for me, Mr Ramaphosa. Explain what you did, what those e-mails made – meant and how you’re going to get out of this bind.
Ramaphosa: Well, it’s not really getting out of it. I have offered to go and testify to the commission… that was set up by President Zuma to investigate this. Basically, all it boils down to is that prior to the killing of the 34 people by police guns, 10 people had died. And some of them had died in the most brutal way.
And they had died in what I still see as a criminal way, because the way they were killed, policemen, security officials and, indeed, other workers working on the mine, was so terrible. It just begins to defy any feeling that anyone would have. And I was appealing to the authorities to take action, to make sure that we prevent further death.
And soon after I had made that call, clearly the police decided that all this has got to come to an end and obviously another situation unfolded. And the two situations are not linked. They are delinked, because I was calling for peace, I was calling for the saving of lives. And then the following day it happened in a most horrendous way.
A long part of my life was spent serving mineworkers. And there is just no way I could ever have said that mineworkers should be killed. There is just no way. It is – it just defies any logic in me.
I’ve served mineworkers loyally and I sought to improve their lives, the condition of their employment and that is on the record. And this situation that we were dealing with was a situation where I was trying to prevent further loss of life. And that is going to be the testimony that I will put to the commission when the time comes.
Amanpour: Do you agree that the mines should have better conditions for their workers?
Ramaphosa: I agree completely. The conditions of work and conditions where mineworkers live need to be improved. In fact, they need to be revolutionised. They need to be completely changed because what we have now is totally unacceptable.
Amanpour: In the years since you left ANC politics and you became a businessman, by all published accounts, you have made a lot of money, maybe half a billion dollars, maybe more. How do you think you can bond with the rank and file of your people who are by and large poor? Is that a problem for you?
Ramaphosa: No, it isn’t a problem and in any event, I’m not as – I’m not wealthy the way that you are describing it.
Amanpour: Well, how much are you worth?
Ramaphosa: not. But the members who – the members who elected me are fully aware of my situation. But I have been and I am a businessman. And the ANC is about change. The ANC is a political organisation that welcomes everyone.
It welcomes socialists, communists, capitalists, rural people, urban people, the poor, the wealthy, the professionals, the – all of those people are all welcome within the ANC. What binds us all together is the objective that the ANC is seeking to achieve.
And those objectives are to ensure that democracy is entrenched in South Africa. We eliminate racism. We eliminate sexism. And we make sure that all our people have a prosperous life.
Now I can make a contribution to that. And it is my conscience, my conscience that will be driving the actions that I have to take.
Amanpour: Mr. Ramaphosa, you sound very much like a person who would like to lead your people. Do you want to be president eventually?
Ramaphosa: The issue of, you know, of president does not even begin to arise. I have been elected deputy president. And that’s what I’m going to focus on. That is my job at hand.
Amanpour: That’s true, but everybody thinks that you have a long-term strategy. That’s true and I know you’re saying the party line and I understand why you’re saying it. But will you rule out ever running for president?
Ramaphosa: You’re absolutely right; the party line within the ANC is that you are chosen. You never choose yourself. You never, ever raise your arm. The people choose you. I was minding my own business. And the people said we want you to come into this position. And I heeded that.
Amanpour: Do you believe President Zuma will head the ticket in the 2014 elections?
Ramaphosa: President Zuma is the president of the ANC. He is going to lead our party into the next election. He is going to be the face of our campaign and all of members of the ANC are going to rally behind him, rally behind him to achieve the victory that our people want us to achieve. The ANC will emerge victorious in that election being led by President Zuma.
Amanpour: There’s no secret that president Mandela wanted you to be his deputy when he was president. You were one of the prominent figures seen in the photos as he walked out of that jail after nearly 28 years back in 1990.
What do you think now? What goes through your mind as you know that he’s a frail 94-year-old? He’s just gone through one of his major health issues.
Ramaphosa: We are all obviously very saddened and we are extremely concerned about his health challenges. And we are blessed, all of us as South Africans. And this cuts right across the political lines and every other line.
All of us are just grateful that providence had delivered a person like Nelson Mandela in this nation at the right time to lead us out of bondage into freedom. And our task is to carry on with that legacy.
- For the complete interview, please visit www.amanpour.com