When Cyril Ramaphosa was young, he told a friend that he would one day be president. That burning ambition has been the driver through his career in the trade unions, as a constitutional negotiator and as a businessman. Now SA’s “nearly-man” has finally made it to the top. His early influences were in the black consciousness movement at the University of the North, where he was a leader of the Students Christian Association. He, and others such as a young Frank Chikane, politicised this movement and it stepped into the gap left after the decimation of the black consciousness leadership by BJ Vorster’s police state in the 1970s. Ramaphosa would spend two long stretches in solitary confinement for his association with the black consciousness leadership. He emerged from detention bitter, saying: “When I was in detention, I came to realise that friends are like teabags. You boil the water. And you use them once.” After completing his law degree he became an organiser for Cusa, the black...

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