McCormack Speaks

December 22, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

Mandela’s Chosen Successor: Ramaphosa’s Long Wait to Reignite South Africa’s Promise

by Padraig O’Malley, Moakley Chair of Peace and Reconciliation

Meyer, O'Malley and Ramaphosa (1993)

Roelf Meyer, Padraig O’Malley, and Cyril Ramaphosa, 1993

I met Cyril Ramaphosa on my first visit to South Africa in 1985. Ramaphosa was secretary general of the powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), fresh off leading the largest strike in South African history. I met him again in 1990 after I began to document the South African transition from apartheid to democracy, and interviewed him on several occasions.

In 1993, the University of Massachusetts Boston, where I hold the John Joseph Moakley Chair of Peace and Reconciliation at the university’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, awarded Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer, both of whom were the lead negotiators on the African National Congress (ANC) and National Party sides in the talks to end apartheid, honorary doctorates at its commencement ceremonies.

In 1997, at my behest, Ramaphosa and Meyer went to Belfast to meet with all the key negotiators in the Northern Ireland peace process. As a result, President Nelson Mandela hosted the Great Indaba (The Great “Gathering”) at Arniston, a secure military base in the Western Cape Province that same year. Negotiators from all parties in Northern Ireland and the principal negotiators from the multiparty talks in South Africa that ended apartheid participated. Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s lead negotiator, called it a “turning point.” A year later, the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was signed. Subsequently, Cyril Ramaphosa was appointed one of the two interim decommissioning commissioners and I advised him on things Northern Irish. Continue Reading →

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