In Brief

Cyril Ramaphosa: from Lonmin mining massacre to President

The new South African leader was an apartheid hero - but some haven’t forgiven his role in the deaths of 34 miners

Cyril Ramaphosa will lead South Africa into the next decade, a formidable challenge for the anti-apartheid activist-turned-businessman.

Ramaphosa, 65, is an activist lawyer who grew up in a poor township in Johannesburg. He was detained twice in the 1970s for anti-apartheid activities, Time says, and formed the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1980s.

The union leader then transformed himself into a multi-millionaire businessman, eventually taking over the McDonald’s franchise in South Africa in 2011, the BBC says.

But Ramaphosa is better known in South Africa in connection with a massacre at the British-owned mining company Lonmin in 2012. Ramaphosa was a non-executive director when a wildcat strike at the Marikana platinum mine ended with police shooting dead 34 strikers. He had called on the authorities to take “concomitant action” against the miners in the days before the massacre.

During his testimony at an inquiry into the massacre he was heckled by protesters shouting “blood on his hands, Ramaphosa must go”, the BBC reported at the time.

The South African news agency Business Live says that in a “bid to clear a major hurdle in his campaign for top office”, Ramaphosa apologised last year for the manner in which the Marikana massacre unfolded, saying he was “sorry for the type of language he used at the time”.

“An inquiry subsequently absolved Ramaphosa of guilt. But some families of the victims still blame him for urging the authorities to intervene,” Reuters reports.

The incident “rocked the mining industry and traumatised South Africa”, The Daily Telegraph writes.

Could Ramaphosa heal and restore South Africa’s politics and economy, in spite of his past? A country once described as the “miracle” of the African continent is about to find out.

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