London/Johannesburg — For the four years of his vice-presidency, Cyril Ramaphosa looked on with seeming impotence as his boss dragged South Africa closer to catastrophe. While Ramaphosa stood silently, Jacob Zuma axed competent ministers and ransacked state institutions in the interests of his alleged paymasters, the Gupta family. Little in Ramaphosa’s reticence during that period could have prepared South Africans for what was to follow. In the three months since he was elected leader of the African National Congress, he has unleashed a political blitzkrieg, making a succession of decisions and deft manoeuvres that have bolstered investor confidence and lifted the national mood. Why did he wait so long? "What did Shakespeare say?" he replies in an interview with the Financial Times in London, before quoting Brutus’s call to action in Julius Caesar.Seemingly in his element at the start of what might be described as the third act of a career that has spanned ANC activist, businessman...

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