South Africa's soothing Ramaphosa leads ANC charm offensive

Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:30am EST
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By Jon Herskovitz and Peroshni Govender

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling ANC put its new No. 2 Cyril Ramaphosa at the head of a charm offensive on Friday as it sought to reassure both investors and a restless public it would tackle economic inequality without recourse to wholescale nationalization.

Days after his appointment as party deputy to President Jacob Zuma, who was re-elected ANC chief this week, the anti-apartheid hero and businessman laid out the party's strategic priorities.

Appearing at a business breakfast with Zuma and other ANC leaders elected at a conference in Bloemfontein, Ramaphosa stressed the ruling party backed a mixed economy model.

But he added the state would intervene to ensure the country's wealth was better shared.

"Within a mixed economy, the state has a role to play. It intervenes and the private sector also has a role," Ramaphosa said, wearing like Zuma a red tie with his dark business suit.

The return of Ramaphosa to the ANC leadership will allow the party to capitalize on his experience and reputation for integrity. His popularity rests on both his history as an anti-apartheid mineworkers' champion in the 1980s and his current pro-business credentials as South Africa's second wealthiest black entrepreneur.

The ANC had its 100th anniversary this year. But Nelson Mandela's liberation movement has been split by feuding and has faced a groundswell of popular anger against graft, cronyism and widespread poverty and unemployment in Africa's biggest economy.

Deadly strikes swept the mines this year in the worst labor violence since the end of apartheid in 1994. It led to damaging credit downgrades for South Africa and questions whether 70-year-old Zuma, who has faced a slew of corruption and personal scandals, can effectively lead the party and country.   Continued...

Cyril Ramaphosa (R) celebrates his election as party Deputy President at the National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Bloemfontein December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings