Belfast Telegraph

New ANC eader Ramaphosa had role in Northern Ireland peace process

By Staff Reporter

South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has elected Cyril Ramaphosa - one of two men who inspected IRA arms at a key moment in Northern Ireland's peace process - as its new president.

It means the nation's deputy president is likely to become its next leader.

Ex-ANC secretary-general Mr Ramaphosa and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari reported in 2000 that they had secretly inspected IRA arms dumps.

Outgoing president Jacob Zuma's second and final term as party leader has ended after a scandal-ridden tenure that has seen the popularity of Nelson Mandela's liberation movement plummet.

Despite being part of Mr Zuma's administration, the 65-year-old Mr Ramaphosa has styled himself in recent months as a reformer who will steer South Africa away from the corruption scandals that have hurt the economy and briefly sent it into recession this year.

One of South Africa's richest businessmen, Mr Ramaphosa is a veteran of the struggle to end the country's former apartheid system of white minority rule and helped negotiate the transition to democracy.

He turned his connections as a former union leader into business ventures which at times have proven controversial. Many South Africans remember that Mr Ramaphosa was a board member of the Lonmin mining group at the time of the Marikana killings in 2012, when police shot dead 34 striking mine workers.

Mr Zuma's term as South Africa's head of state ends in 2019.

It is not clear if Mr Ramaphosa, as the ANC's new leader, will call on Mr Zuma to resign as the country's president, which the party has the authority to do.

Mr Ramaphosa and Mr Ahtisaari played an important part in the Northern Ireland peace process at a time when it was unravelling over the issue of IRA arms.

When they announced in June 2000 that IRA arms dumps had been inspected and secured, the move was welcomed by Tony Blair and Gerry Adams as representing progress. The UUP also welcomed the move, saying it vindicated David Trimble's decision to re-enter Stormont after republicans committed themselves to putting arms beyond use. However, the DUP dismissed it as a gimmick.

The two weapons inspectors said at the time that they believed "this is a genuine effort by the IRA to advance the peace process".

Belfast Telegraph

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