South Africa: Ramaphosa’s Moment

South Africa: Ramaphosa’s Moment

The votes have now been counted, and it's clear that Cyril Ramaphosa, leader of the African National Congress (ANC), will continue to serve as South Africa's president. But this time he'll lead with a mandate sealed by South Africa's voters following the first national election victory for the African National Congress (ANC) under his leadership.

What sets Ramaphosa apart from other South African leaders, and what is he now up against?


  • Ramaphosa has succeeded in many roles: Born in 1952, Ramaphosa spent the 1970s as an anti-apartheid activist and the 1980s as the union-man who led the largest mining strike in South Africa's history. He later served as Nelson Mandela's chief negotiator in the talks that ended apartheid in 1994. Frustrated by his inability to advance within the ANC, he left politics in 1997 to become one of South Africa's most successful businessmen.
  • He speaks to a broad audience: Ramaphosa has a formidable skillset. He speaks all 11 of South Africa's official languages—English, Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Afrikaans, Siswati, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga—and his diplomatic skills have earned him a global reputation. He served as one of two international arms inspectors helping to disarm the Irish Republican Army as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
  • His path to power has taken twists and turns: When ANC insiders pressured Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first post-apartheid president, to pass over Ramaphosa to choose Thabo Mbeki as his deputy and designated successor, a disappointed Ramaphosa spurned Mandela's government to pursue a seat in parliament. As chairman of South Africa's constitutional assembly, he played the lead role in drafting the country's post-apartheid constitution.
  • His greatest battles have been fought within the ANC: Ramaphosa finally became South Africa's deputy president in 2014, but President Jacob Zuma refused to endorse him as his successor. In December 2017, fears within the ANC that Zuma's reputation for corruption would cost the party its hold on power led insiders to oust Zuma and replace him with Ramaphosa. In February 2018, South Africa's ANC-dominated parliament elected Ramaphosa the country's president.

This week, the ANC won a national election with Ramaphosa as its leader.

The president will face many challenges. To protect themselves and their interests against future corruption charges, Zuma and his allies within the ANC are actively working to undermine Ramaphosa's control of the party. Only if he can consolidate control of the ANC can he hope to meet the country's enormous challenges.

A quarter century after he helped end apartheid, Ramaphosa inherits the leadership of a country plagued with endemic corruption, a stagnant economy, high levels of violent crime, frequent electricity blackouts, and an unemployment rate of 27 percent. More than 64 percent of black South Africans still live in poverty. That's why the ANC has seen its vote share fall steadily with each new national election.

Cyril Ramaphosa has wanted this opportunity for 25 years. If he fails to persuade voters that he and the ANC can provide the security and prosperity they've promised, voters may finally decide that the party of liberation should no longer serve as the party of power.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

More Show less

"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

More Show less

As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

More Show less

For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?


Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

Salvadorans protest Bukele, Bitcoin: Thousands of people took to the streets of El Salvador's capital on Wednesday, the 200th anniversary of the country's independence, to protest against President Nayib Bukele's increasingly authoritarian streak and his embrace of risky cryptocurrency. Last May, Bukele ended the Supreme Court's independence; perhaps unsurprisingly, the court then decided to lift the constitutional ban on presidential term limits — presumably so Bukele can run for reelection in 2024. Meanwhile, last week El Salvador became the first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as legal tender, but the rollout was, to put it mildly, messy. The protesters resent Bukele's dictator vibes and warn that Bitcoin could spur inflation and financial instability. The tech-savvy president, for his part, insists that crypto will bring in more cash from remittances and foreign investment, and remains immensely popular among most Salvadorans. Still, Bukele's Bitcoin gamble could erode his support if the experiment fails.

More Show less

22.7 million: Trinidad-born US rapper Nicki Minaj has caused a political uproar after telling her 22.7 million Twitter followers that the COVID vaccine caused her Trinidadian cousin's friend to get swollen testicles and become impotent. The country's health minister called out Minaj, as did the White House.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises

Coronavirus

UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal