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Ramaphosa vs. Malema vs. Steenhuisen: What did they do BEFORE politics?

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Oct 30, 2021

Have you ever wondered what President and leader of the African National Congress (ANC) Cyril Ramaphosa, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and the Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen did before they got involved in politics? 

Surprise, surprise – all three of them were involved in politics from an early age.

Both Ramaphosa and Steenhuisen started their careers in politics after they matriculated, while Malema joined the politics world at the young age of nine.

Malema joined the Masupatsela (Trailblazers), an African National Congress (ANC) movement. According to Malema, their main task was to remove National Party posters placed outside police stations.

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Let’s get to know these three politicians a bit better and see how their careers took off.

Cyril Ramaphosa:

Date of birth: 17 November 1952

Age: 69 years

Place of birth: Johannesburg

In 1971 Cyril matriculated from Mphaphuli High School in Sibasa, Limpopo. In 1972 he registered at the University of the North (Turfloop) for a BProc degree. He became involved in students politics and joined the South African Students Organization (SASO) in 1972. In 1974 he served as the chairman of the branch. In the same year, he was chairman of the Student Christian Movement. After the pro-Frelimo rally at the University in 1974, Ramaphosa was detained for 11 months under section 6 of the Terrorism Act. On his release, he joined the Black People’ Convention (BPC), holding posts on various committees. He obtained articles with a Johannesburg firm of attorneys while working for BPC.In June 1976, following the unrest in Soweto, Ramaphosa was again detained under Terrorism Act for six months and this time held at John Vorster square. On his release he continued with his articles and completed his Bproc degree through correspondence with the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 1981. He completed his articles in the same year, and joined the Council of Unions of South Africa (Cusa) as an advisor in the legal department.In August 1982, Cusa resolved to form the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and in December, Ramaphosa became its first secretary. Ramaphosa was the conference organiser in the preparations leading to the formation of the Congress of the South African Trade Union (COSATU). He delivered a keynote address at Cosatu’s launch rally in Durban in December 1985. In March 1986, he was part of COSATU’s delegation, which met the African National Congress (ANC) in Lusaka, Zambia. In July 1986, after the declaration of the state of emergency, Ramaphosa went into hiding after security police swooped on the homes and offices of the political activists. He traveled to the United Kingdom and appeared with NUM president, James Motlatsi, at a conference of the British national union Mineworkers. Ramaphosa was refused a passport to travel to Britain in September 1987, but when he became the recipient of the Olaf Palme prize, he was permitted to travel to Stockholm to receive it.In December 1988, Ramaphosa and other prominent members of the Soweto community met Soweto’s Mayor to discuss the rent boycott crisis. In January 1990, Ramaphosa accompanied released ANC political prisoners to Lusaka, Zambia. Ramaphosa served as chairman of the National Reception committee, which co-ordinated arrangements for the release of Nelson Mandela and subsequent welcome rallies within South Africa, and also became a member of the international Mandela Reception committee. He was elected General-Secretary of the ANC in a conference held in Durban in July 1991. Ramaphosa was a visiting Professor of Law at Stanford University in the United States of America in October 1991. In his capacity as a General-Secretary he became the head of the negotiations commissions of the ANC and participated in the Covention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). Ramaphosa was present at the ANC’s march on Bisho on 7 September 1992, when Ciskei troops fired on the crowd, killing 24 and wounding 2000. In May 1994, he was elected chairperson of the New Constitutional Assembly. A position he resigned in May 1996 together with that of General-Secretary of the ANC.Ramaphosa is the Executive Chairman of Millennium Consolidated Investment (MCI) and non-executive Chairman of Johnnic Holdings, MTN Group Limited, and SASRIA. He is the past Chairman of the Black Economic Empowerment Commission. His directorships include South African Breweries, First Rand Limited, Macsteel Holdings, Alexander Forbes, and Medscheme Limited. In August 2012, Lonmin, a company that Ramaphosa was a non-executive board member, was dealing with an unprotected strike. The strike eventually climaxed with the Marikana Massacre that left 34 mineworkers dead at the hands of the police. In December of the same year, he was elected as ANC deputy president. On 3 February 2013, he resigned from his position at Lonmin. In 2015, the Marikana Commission of Inquiry cleared Ramaphosa of any responsibility. President Jacob Zuma appointed Ramaphosa as the Deputy President of the State in 2014 after he was elected Deputy President of ANC in 2012. As a result of this, Ramaphosa resigned from a number of positions, most notably as chairman of the Shanduka Group investment group which he started in 1997. Ramaphosa was then appointed by the President to the position of Special Envoy to South Sudan to act as a mediator in the conflict between different factions in South Sudan.As of 2017, Ramaphosa continues to act in this capacity despite allegations by South Sudanese rebels that he had been receiving bribes. In September 2017, Ramaphosa headed the unsuccesful South African bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in London. [5]On 18 December 2017 he was elected to the position of president of the ANC narrowlingly edging out Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa is married to Dr. Tshepo Motsepe, and they have four children.He became President following the resignation of Jacob Zuma. 

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Julius Malema:

Date of birth: 3 March 1981

Age: 40 years

Place of birth: Seshego, Limpopo

Malema began his political career at a young age. At the age of nine years, he joined the Masupatsela (Trailblazers), an African National Congress (ANC) movement. According to Malema, their main task was to remove National Party posters placed outside police stations. At the age of 14, Malema was elected as chairperson of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) branch in Seshego and the regional chair in 1995. Two years later, in 1997, he became the chair of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) for the Limpopo province. In 2001, he was elected as the national president of COSAS.Malema was elected as president of the ANCYL in April 2008, in a close race at a national conference held in Bloemfontein. On 16 August 2011, the ANC served charges to Julius Malema and Floyd Shivabmu, the spokesperson for the ANCYL. Both Malema and Shivabmu were charged with “various violations of the ANC Constitution, including bringing the ANC into disrepute through utterances and statements in Botswana and sowing division in the ranks of the ANC.” On 10 November 2011 Malema was found guilty on several charges, including bringing the ANC into disrepute and sowing divisions within the party. He was however found not guilty on separate charges of inciting hatred and racism. The NDC recommended that he be removed from his position as leader of the youth league and that his ANC membership be suspended for five years. Suspended Malema and Shivambu, who vowed to continue their fight against the inability of the government to establish domestic and international policies beneficial to the development of South Africa established their own political party. On 10 July 2013 they launched the political party of their own, namely the Economic Freedom Fighters.Following the fourth democratic National Elections in 2014, the EFF obtained 25 seats in the National Assembly after securing 6.35 percent of the national votes.Malema officially obtained his BA Degree in Political Leadership and Citizenship from the University of South Africa (UNISA) on 30 March 2016, at a graduation ceremony held on the Pretoria campus.

John Steenhuisen:

Date of birth: 25 March 1976 

Age: 45 years 

Place of birth: Durban 

Steenhuisen matriculated from Northwood Boys’ High School, an English-medium high school in Durban, in 1993. He went on to study a course in political science at the London School of Economics and Political Science, but has never obtained a university degree.It is believed Steenhuisen told Parliament that he had enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in politics and law at the University of South Africa in 1994, but he could not finish the course due to work and financial circumstances.Steenhuisen started as an ordinary Democratic Party (predecessor to the Democratic Alliance) activist before he became a branch member.At the age of 22 in 1999, Steenhuisen was elected to the then Durban City Council as the DP councillor for Durban North. He was the youngest municipal councillor at that time. At the 2000 municipal election, the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality was formed, and Steenhuisen was elected as a councillor for the newly established Democratic Alliance (DA).Steenhuisen continued to serve as an ordinary councillor until his appointment as the DA’s caucus leader in 2006. In that same year, he was assigned to serve on the city’s Executive Committee.Steenhuisen was elected to the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature in the 2009 general election. The incoming DA caucus elected him as leader, replacing party veteran, Roger Burrows.At the inaugural sitting, he challenged Zweli Mkhize of the African National Congress for the post of premier, but lost after he received 7 votes compared to Mkhize’s 68 votes.He was elected as the KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader of the Democratic Alliance at the party’s Provincial Congress held later that same year. Steenhuisen held this position until 24 October 2010, after he announced on 18 October his intention to resign amid the disclosure of an extramarital affair. Steenhuisen continued to serve as an MPL and the DA’s caucus leader until his move to the National Assembly.Steenhuisen joined the National Assembly on 19 July 2011 by replacing Mark Steele, a DA MP who, in turn, assumed Steenhuisen’s seat in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature. In February 2012, Steenhuisen was appointed by Lindiwe Mazibuko as Shadow Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. He is currently a member of the Rules Committee. He had previously served as a member of the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management.In 2012, he declared his candidacy for deputy chairperson of the DA Federal Council. He lost to Thomas Walters at the party’s Federal Congress.Steenhuisen was appointed as chief whip of the DA parliamentary caucus by Mmusi Maimane on 29 May 2014.He was reappointed to the post in May 2019.

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