“Democracy will be meaningless unless it can lead to the transformation of the quality of life of all our people.” — Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa
America’s Blacks thought everything was corrected once Nelson Mandela was released and apartheid rescinded. So it’s saddening to see how far some in the ruling elite have strayed from example set by “Madiba.” But this time around, the current president of South Africa is a Black man that is one of the richest people in the country, but also one that could emerge as a role model for Blacks around the world.
President Matemeola Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, who became the fifth president of South Africa in February, is a symbol of substance for Black youth to emulate. There is little fear of corruption scares that haunted his immediate predecessors, as he has already made his money before ascending to president as an anti-apartheid activist, trade union leader and financial businessman.
Ramaphosa, worth $450 million, looms large among Blacks as a man who’s paid his dues and continues to give back through his Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation.
South Africa is booming. It is home to a population of 57 million, and a Black population of 41 million, and where 43,600 individuals with high net worths have net assets of $1 million or more. Among the world’s richest countries, South Africa is home to 2,200 multimillionaires (net assets of $10 million or more), and five billionaires with net assets of $1 billion or more.
However, the average annual household income for Blacks is 60,613 rand (roughly $8,700), about a sixth of the average annual income for White households. But Ramaphosa is billed as “president of all the people,” and voters expect him to lean toward the country’s Black majority.
Internationally respected as a skillful and formidable negotiator and strategist, Ramaphosa is best known for the role he played in building the biggest and most powerful trade union in the country, the National Union of Mineworkers.
A “community organizer” extraordinaire, Ramaphosa hasn’t let politics obscure his vision for his people. As an African National Congress (ANC) executive, he worked with the former South African regime to peacefully end apartheid in the country and facilitate its first democratic elections in 1994.
Ramaphosa was Mandela’s choice for future president. Ramaphosa’s net worth includes scores of urban properties and ownership in companies such as McDonald’s South Africa. He also did work for Coca-Cola Company. After he lost the presidential race to Thabo Mbeki, he basically moved to the private sector, where he became a director of New Africa Investments Limited. He was executive chairman of Shanduka Holdings, a company he founded to participate in Black economic empowerment transactions. South Africa has a major program to gain economic parity for Blacks. He was chairperson of the Bidvest Group, MTN Group and SASRIA Limited. His directorships include Macsteel Holdings, Alexander Forbes, Standard Bank and SABMiller. He maintains an ownership stake in Mondi, a leading international paper and packaging group, which emerged from Anglo American.
The ANC once described Ramaphosa as “one of the most outstanding figures of his generation.” They were right.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.