The summit of the Brics nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA), which concludes on July 27, has offered tantalising glimpses into how foreign policy could evolve under President Cyril Ramaphosa. It is intriguing to speculate what might have happened had Ramaphosa accepted then president Nelson Mandela’s invitation to him in 1994 to serve as foreign affairs minister, a consolation prize for being passed over for the deputy presidency. Ramaphosa declined that offer. He was then on the left of the ANC, once spending days on a boat off the coast of Cuba waiting for an opportunity to pay homage to Fidel Castro. Ramaphosa’s years in business remade his understanding of international affairs. As chairman of MTN he helped smooth the cellphone giant’s growth on the continent. His stake in Standard Bank immersed him in the complex politics of Chinese-South African economic co-operation. He went out of his way to interact with broader global elites, serving on the Commonwealth Business ...

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