Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Review - Anthony Butler "Cyril Ramaphosa"

Cyril Ramaphosa

Anthony Butler

Jacana (2007) 442 p.

Butler, a lecturer in public policy at UCT and a columnist for the Business Day offers an insightful biography on Cyril Ramaphosa, the founder of the National Union of Mineworkers and a major figure in the mass democratic movement.

However, a biography is only as good as its subject and Ramaphosa has his limitations as a person of interest in the contemporary political climate. The run-up to the ANC national conference at Polokwane in December 2007 created much speculation about the presidential ambitions of various players in the ruling party. This conjecture included Cyril as a potential alternative to Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma (the incumbent party leader and his erstwhile challenger respectively).

Unfortunately, history was not kind to Mr. Ramaphosa. Despite his organisational ability and business acumen - as well as his considerable skills as a negotiator – he withdrew his candidacy; seemingly unwilling to appear at odds with the “collective decision–making” practices of the ANC. Butler does a fine job of placing Ramaphosa within the historical context of his time, but falls short of providing an intimate portrait of the man’s personality and inner life.

David Ansara

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