Cyril Ramaphosa

(November 17, 1952 - )

Former Secretary-General of the ANC

Early Life

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was born in Johannesburg on 17 November 1952. He is the second of the three children of Erdmuth and Samuel Ramaphosa, a retired policeman. He grew up in the south western Native Township (Soweto), attending a local primary school and Sekano-Ntoane High School, Soweto. In 1971 he matriculated from Mphaphuli High School in Sibasa, Limpopo.

In 1972 he registered at the University of the North (Turfloop) for a BProc degree. He became involved in students politics and joined the South African Students Organization (SASO) in 1972. In 1974 he served as the chairman of the branch. In the same year, he was chairman of the Student Christian Movement. After the pro-Frelimo rally at the University in 1974, Ramaphosa was detained for 11 months under section 6 of the Terrorism Act. On his release he joined the Black Peoples Convention (BPC), holding posts on various committees. He obtained articles with a Johannesburg firm of attorneys while working for BPC. In June 1976, following the unrest in Soweto, Ramaphosa was again detained under Terrorism Act for six months and this time held at John Vorster square. On his release he continued with his articles and completed his Bproc degree through correspondence with the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 1981. He completed his articles in the same year, and joined the Council of Unions of South Africa (Cusa) as an advisor in the legal department.

Political Life

In August 1982, Cusa resolved to form National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and in December Ramaphosa became its first secretary. Ramaphosa was conference organiser in the preparations leading to the formations of the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU). He delivered a keynote address at Cosatu’s launch rally in Durban in December 1985.In march 1986 he was part of COSATU’s delegation which met the African National Congress in Lusaka, Zambia. In July 1986, after the declaration of the state of emergency, Ramaphosa went into hiding after security police swoops on the homes and offices of the political activists. He traveled to United Kingdom and appeared with NUM president, James Motlatsi, at a conference of the British national union Mineworkers. Ramaphosa was refused a passport to travel to Britain in September 1987, but when he became the recipient of the Olaf Palme prize, was permitted to travel to Stockholm to receive it. In December 1988, Ramaphosa and other prominent members of the Soweto community met Soweto’s Mayor to discuss the rent boycott crisis.

After 1990

In January 1990, Ramaphosa accompanied released ANC political prisoners to Lusaka, Zambia. Ramaphosa served as chairman of the National Reception committee, which co-ordinated arrangements for the release of Nelson Mandela and subsequent welcome rallies within South Africa, and also became a member of the international Mandela Reception committee. He was elected General-Secretary of the ANC in a conference held in Durban in July 1991. Ramaphosa was a visiting Professor of Law at Stanford University in the United States of America in October 1991.In his capacity as a General-Secretary he became the head of the negotiations commissions of the ANC and participated in the conference for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa). Ramaphosa was present at the ANC’s march on Bisho on 7 September 1992, when Ciskei troops fired on the crowd, killing 24 and wounding 2000. In May 1994 he was elected chairperson of the New Constitutional Assembly. A position he resigned in May 1996 together with that of General-Secretary of the ANC.

Cyril is the Executive Chairman of Millennium Consolidated Investment (MCI) and non-executive Chairman of Johnnic Holdings, MTN Group Limited and SASRIA. He is the past Chairman of the Black Economic Empowerment Commission. His directorships include South African Breweries, First Rand Limited, Macsteel Holdings, Alexander Forbes and Medscheme Limited.

Ramaphosa is married to Dr. Tshepo Motsepe and they have four children.


Gastrow, S. (1983). Who’s Who in South African Politics: Vol 2, Johannesburg: Ravan Press.


This biography is from South African History Online. Used by permission. 
AODL African Studies Center MSU NEH Matrix