President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times - published on Monday - President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa hit rock bottom when former president Jacob Zuma fired Pravin Gordhan as finance minister in March, 2017. 

Read the Financial Times interview

“When we were hitting rock bottom, we needed to say something so that we could begin to recover and claw our way back,” the 65-year-old president, entering his 68th day in office, told the London-based publication. 

Here are the four key takeaways from Ramaphosa’s Financial Times interview: 

Shakespeare guided Ramaphosa's actions on state capture

“There is a tide in the affairs of men,” Ramaphosa told the Financial Times, quoting William Shakespeare. “People kept asking: ‘Why are you not acting? Why are you not saying anything.’ And I kept saying: ‘There’s a time when one needs to act and, when you do take action, it should be such that you do not fail.’”

Ramaphosa favours redistributing already state-owned land instead of land-grabs  

The ANC was formed in 1912 “to resist the land grab by the colonialists, to return the land that had been taken by the wars of dispossession,” Ramaphosa said. He described the populist yearning for land in South Africa as a “gaping and bleeding” wound. But unlike his political opponent EFF leader Julius Malema, Ramaphosa favours practical solutions, such as distributing land already owned by the state and awarding abandoned buildings to tenants. “Whatever we do as we return land to indigenous owners, the economy must not be harmed, agricultural production must not go down,” Ramaphosa was quoted as saying. 

Read the Financial Times interview

Ramaphosa will use courts and a commission of inquiry to address corruption 

Asked how he will tackle wide-spread corruption in the ruling ANC, Ramaphosa emphasised the role the courts and a commission of inquiry will play to address “state capture”. “There will be leaders, people within the ANC who will be caught up in the web of state capture,” Ramaphosa said. “And when they are, they must be accountable . . . It will ferret a lot of things out.” 

While at Mondi, he learned how communities can benefit from commerce

Speaking of the drafting of the current mining charter, Ramaphosa said injustice has to be addressed to avoid future instability. He said there is the possibility for a compromise with the charter which will satisfy both investors and stakeholders with the upcoming mining charter.  Recalling his work as chairman of paper group Mondi, Ramaphosa said he negotiated an agreement where those living around the paper mill benefited economically from the land on which they were living. “Let’s find a win-win solution [with the charter],” he said. 

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