Investor relief as Ramaphosa steps forward

Dec 18 2012 13:30
Sapa, Reuters
Bloemfontein - Investors have breathed a sigh relief after the ANC re-elected President Jacob Zuma as its leader and brought in respected businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as his deputy.

The rand edged higher against the dollar, as investors welcomed the likelihood of policies remaining largely unchanged under Zuma.

The return to frontline politics of Ramaphosa - an anti-apartheid union leader who is now South Africa's second-richest black businessman - is also seen as broadly favourable to business and investment.

With Zuma's re-election, the African National Congress is teeing him up for another seven years as head of state.

Zuma came to power in 2009 in the teeth of South Africa's first recession in 18 years.

His economic record has been chequered and he has also been dogged by personal scandals, but his popularity within Nelson Mandela's 100-year-old liberation movement is overwhelming.

Ramaphosa on the other hand offers South Africa talent and experience. Reuters reports his bid for office shows that a new, black elite is struggling to rally the century-old party's impoverished base.

It remains to be seen whether a man who retreated from public life to make a fortune in investments can fire up enthusiasm among the millions of poor disillusioned by broken promises in 18 years of majority rule.

Once a firebrand campaigner for miners' rights, Ramaphosa hit the headlines this year as a mining company director who urged a crackdown on strikers before police killed 34 of them.

Ramaphosa also owns investment company, Shanduka Group, and is also MTN Group chairperson.

He benefited from the post-apartheid policy of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and is now one of Africa's richest men, with a fortune estimated at $675m by Forbes magazine. He started Shanduka in 2001 to take advantage of BEE rules that obliged companies to add black shareholders to meet mandatory targets and win government contracts.

Ramaphosa's appointment as deputy president of the ANC may benefit Zuma most as he struggles to restore investor confidence after a wave of violent strikes rocked the country.

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