World

'Nearly man' Ramaphosa edges closer to South Africa's top job

Newly elected African National Congress (ANC) President and current South African deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa takes images with his cell phone at the 54th ANC conference in Johannesburg on December 18, 2017. PHOTO | AFP
Newly elected African National Congress (ANC) President and current South African deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa takes images with his cell phone at the 54th ANC conference in Johannesburg on December 18, 2017. PHOTO | AFP 

JOHANNESBURG

The nearly man of South African politics, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, took a big step towards the top job on Monday when he was elected by a whisker as head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Ramaphosa’s ability has been apparent for decades. Whenever Nelson Mandela needed a breakthrough in talks to end apartheid, he turned to the then-trade union leader with a reputation as a tenacious negotiator.

Using skills honed in pay disputes with mining bosses, Ramaphosa steered those talks to a successful conclusion, allowing Mandela to sweep to power in 1994 as head of the victorious ANC after South Africa’s first democratic vote.