President Cyril Ramaphosa

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was born on 17 November 1952 in Johannesburg. His family was moved from Western Native Township to Soweto in 1962, where he attended Tshilidzi Primary School. He completed high school at Mphaphuli High School in Sibasa, Venda in 1971.

He registered to study law at the University of the North in 1972, where he became involved in student politics, joining the South African Student Organisation (SASO) and the Black People’s Convention (BPC). He was detained in solitary confinement for 11 months in 1974 under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act for organising pro-Frelimo rallies. He was detained for the second time and held for six months in 1976 following the Soweto student uprising.

While a law clerk for a Johannesburg firm of attorneys, he continued his studies through the University of South Africa (UNISA) obtaining his B. Proc degree in 1981. He then joined the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) as a legal advisor.

In 1982, at the request of the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) he founded the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) with James Motlatsi and Elijah Barayi, and became the union’s first General Secretary. He was instrumental in building NUM into the most powerful union at the time, with membership rising from 6 000 to 300 000 during his tenure. He led mineworkers in one of the biggest strikes in South Africa’s history in 1987.

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