The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the ANC denotes a new chapter in the political landscape. Ramaphosa was a key protagonist in the execution of the struggle via the mass mobilisation movement and has a solid track record in the trade union movement and in student politics.
Those who are seen to be representing the exiles and the islanders have become presidents of the ANC and the republic — Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.
In the run-up to the conference that elected Ramaphosa, there were murmurs of this moment signifying a change in the leadership configurations of the ANC.
The antagonisms between the exiles, Robben Island prisoners and people who waged the struggle inside SA have not been as glaring as during the ANC’s 1991 conference in Durban where Ramaphosa was elected secretary-general. This is a demonstration of the ANC’s ability to work as a collective and unite behind its vision and programmes.
Through the skills he acquired as a lawyer, trade unionist, secretary-general of the ANC, businessman, deputy president of the republic and as a seasoned negotiator, he certainly can ensure that, unlike other liberation movements in Africa and elsewhere, the ANC can retain power.
Ramaphosa’s main task is to drive the organisational renewal process, uniting all motive forces, restoring the character of the ANC and repositioning the party as a true representative and driver of the people’s aspirations.
His rise to power comes at a critical time when the nation prepares to observe 2018 as the year of Nelson Mandela, who identified Ramaphosa as a future leader of SA.
His delivery of the traditional January 8 statement, to be conveyed on January 13, will display early signs of how the new leadership of the ANC will approach issues going forward towards the 2019 elections.