An Elite South African Who Vows to Fight for the Ordinary Citizen

JOHANNESBURG — A few months ago, Cyril Ramaphosa, in line to become South Africa’s next president, did what many politicians do at pivotal points in their careers.

He released a book.

The book told of one of his passions — his love for a Ugandan breed of royal cattle that he imported to South Africa at great expense. Anticipating criticism of his wealth in a country where millions still live in shacks, Mr. Ramaphosa argued at his book launch that the cattle were not meant as trophies for the elite like him, but to help struggling black farmers in South Africa.

Now, Mr. Ramaphosa, the former labor leader who Nelson Mandela had hoped would succeed him as president, has an even trickier argument to make as the nation’s next leader.

Mr. Ramaphosa is a business tycoon, one of South Africa’s wealthiest men. To many here, he represents a kind of royalty of the African National Congress, an upper class that has grown removed from the average South African that the party still claims to champion.

Yet he vows that as president he will work for the ordinary citizen, root out the country’s debilitating corruption and convince a highly skeptical public that, under him, the governing African National Congress can whittle away at the gaping inequality that has enraged millions of citizens.

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