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“Atithi Devo Bhava”, which translates in English as Guests are equivalent to God, is something taken from ancient scripture and determines the basis of a host-guest relationship. India follows this beautiful tradition to welcome Presidents or Prime Ministers of other countries every year as chief guests on Republic Day, i.e. January 26.

This year, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to be the chief guest on Republic Day. Mr. Ramaphosa was invited to be the chief guest by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.

Cyril Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa | source

At Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Chief Guest is given the ceremonial guard of honor. He also attends the reception in the evening hosted by the President of India. The visit of the chief guest on Republic Day is symbolic as it portrays the chief guest as participating in India’s pride and happiness and reflects the friendship between the two peoples represented by the President of India and the Chief Guest.

Here are a few facts about Cyril Ramaphosa, the chief guest of India’s Republic Day, 2019.

  • Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was born to Erdmuth and Samuel Ramaphosa, a retired policeman in Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng) on 17 November 1952 but grew up in the South Western Native Township (Soweto).
  • He attended a local primary school and Sekano-Ntoane High School, Soweto and matriculated from Mphaphuli High School in Sibasa, Limpopo in 1971.
  • He registered for a BProc degree at the University of the North (Turfloop) in 1972. The same year, he also became involved in student politics and joined the South African Students Organization (SASO).
  • In 1974 he served as the chairman SASO and also became the chairman of the Student Christian Movement that very year. Ramaphosa was detained for 11 months under section 6 of the Terrorism Act after the pro-Frelimo rally at the University in 1974.

  • When released, he joined the Black People’ Convention (BPC), holding posts on various committees and 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.
  • He joined the Council of Unions of South Africa (Cusa) as an advisor in the legal department in 1981 and in August 1982, Cusa resolved to form the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). In December, Ramaphosa became its first secretary.
  • Ramaphosa was a conference organizer in the preparations leading to the formations of the Congress of 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 swoops 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, 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.
  • He became the head of the negotiations commissions of the ANC and participated in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). He was present at the ANC’s march on Bisho (capital of the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa) on 7 September 1992, when Ciskei troops fired on the crowd, which resulted in killing 24 and wounding 2000 people.
  • He was elected chairperson of the New Constitutional Assembly in May 1994. 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 mine workers dead at the hands of the police.
  • In December of the same year, he was elected as ANC deputy president. But he resigned from his position on February 3, 2013, at Lonmin. Two years later, in 2015, the Marikana Commission of Inquiry cleared him of any responsibility related to the massacre.
  • President Jacob Zuma appointed Ramaphosa as the Deputy President of the State in 2014 after he was elected Deputy President of ANC in 2012. Because of this, Ramaphosa left many positions, also as the chairman of the Shanduka Group investment group, which he started in 1997.
  • To act as a mediator in the conflict between different factions in South Sudan, he was then appointed by the President to the position of Special Envoy to South Sudan.
  • Ramaphosa headed the unsuccessful South African bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in London, which was held in September 2017.
  • On 18 December 2017, he was elected to the position of president of the ANC, narrowingly edging out Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
  • Ramaphosa is married to Dr. Tshepo Motsepe and they have four children.

In September 2017, Ramaphosa headed the unsuccessful South African bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in London. 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.

On 18 December 2017, he was elected to the position of president of the ANC, narrowingly edging out Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Ramaphosa is married to Dr. Tshepo Motsepe and they have four children.