Former National Union of Mineworkers secretary general turned mining magnate, Cyril Ramaphosa, says that he is willing to testify before a governmental-appointed commission investigating the police massacre of 34 miners at the Lonmin PLC facilities., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Ramaphosa: The ANC's prodigal son returns
When Cyril Ramaphosa was deployed to the private sector in the mid-90s, it was sold to him as a decade-long break from politics.
02 Nov 2012 00:00 - Lloyd Gedye
A break during which he could wait out soon-to-be president Thabo Mbeki's two terms and return as a "relatively young man".
But now that Ramaphosa has been nominated by several provinces for the ANC deputy president position and could be on the verge of a return to the party leadership, it appears that his years in the empowerment wilderness may have seriously dented his working-class credibility.
Add to this his involvement as a shareholder in Lonmin, the mining company at the heart of the Marikana massacre, and Ramaphosa's political career looks a lot more problematic than it did in the mid-Nineties.
So, who exactly is Ramaphosa, a man worth R3-billion, in 2012 and what does he have to offer the working-class majority of the ANC?
It is clear that the stage is set for a Ramaphosa comeback and it is the anger about ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe potentially running against Jacob Zuma for the ANC presidency that has opened the door for him.
Speculation about Ramaphosa's presence on the Zuma supporters' slates is rife. Some have said that Ramaphosa ingratiated himself with Zuma's supporters while running the process that ensured former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema was kicked out of the ANC.
Others have speculated that the Zuma camp felt that the president needed a heavy-hitter as a deputy because he was going into the electoral conference weaker than he was in Polokwane in 2007.
Ramaphosa's return as a prodigal son of the ANC is likely to raise mixed emotions, although this counts for nothing at the moment because he has not signalled his intention to accept the nomination.
His nomination has become more controversial since emails emerged in the Farlam commission, which is investigating the massacre at Marikana, showing that the day before the massacre Ramaphosa called on the government and police to intervene, calling for "concomitant action" and describing the striking miners as "dastardly criminal".
The dependence on the law to protect business interests that is displayed in the emails stands in stark contrast to Ramaphosa the founder of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in 1982.
In Anthony Butler's 2007 biography, titled Cyril Ramaphosa, the former union boss is characterised as a tireless worker who felt deeply about the exploitation of mine workers.