The buffalo soldier

2012-12-23 10:00

ANC’s new deputy has already raised investor confidence in SA and the unions like him too

In game-farming circles, ANC deputy president Cyril ­Ramaphosa is king of the buffaloes – he is among the top five collectors of super-buffalo in the country.

In ANC circles, he is a buffalo soldier, the term that has come to symbolise black resistance, but which originally described African-American infantrymen.

This week, he blended the two identities, riding to a rousing victory as ANC second-in-command and the likely next president of South Africa.

Many have asked: what has Ramaphosa been doing since his exit from politics 10 years ago?

He has assiduously built a R1.3-billion fortune, while maintaining relationships with trade unions, business and farmers.

Ramaphosa remained a member of the powerful national executive committee (NEC) after he quit as party secretary-general in 1996 and came into the spotlight again this year when he, as chair of the ANC’s

disciplinary appeals committee, put the final nail in expelled youth league president Julius Malema’s coffin.

In the 16 years that he spent outside of active politics, he built constituencies that will now stand him in good stead.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told City Press Ramphosa’s relationship with the trade union federation remained sound despite his move into business.

Ramaphosa chairs the Shanduka Group, which is 30% owned by his family trust.

“It’s not like he went into business and cut ties with us,” Vavi said.

He confirmed Ramaphosa continued to sponsor Cosatu conferences and other activities.

“He would do that gladly,” Vavi said.

Ramaphosa, who farms with expensive game, crops and cattle, regularly flew to game farms in his helicopter throughout this year, where he met some of the biggest farmers in the country, City Press was told.

During these meetings he calmed fears in the farming sector over land reform and nationalisation.

He recently flew in super-rich businessmen to his farms to encourage them to invest in the wildlife sector.

The secret meetings took place on farms in Northern Cape between Ramaphosa, a top wildlife farmer who is also a member of Wildlife Ranching SA, and other game farmers.

Danie Minnaar, a game farmer from Kroonstad and deputy chairperson of agribusiness organisation Senwes, said he asked Ramaphosa directly whether white farmers still had a place in South Africa.

“He told me: ‘We need guys like you in the country. We need food. Without food, we will have a revolution. And if we have a revolution, we lose everything’,” Minnaar said.

Boet Troskie, a game farmer and friend of Ramaphosa’s, said his election was the best news in years.

“For the first time, I have hope again for South Africa,” said an ­excited Troskie.

“He understands marketing and that is something South Africa now desperately needs. The focus needs to shift from political parties and our country needs to be ­marketed as a safe haven for ­investment. Cyril is the right man for this. He has lots of credibility.”

Ramaphosa rose to prominence when the ANC was unbanned in 1990 and he became the party’s chief negotiator and an architect of the new Constitution.

He quit his position as secretary-general of the ANC after Thabo Mbeki became then president Nelson Mandela’s deputy. Ramaphosa ventured into business.

On Friday he gave businesspeople a taste of what his extensive experience in big business could bring to the party when he addressed a business breakfast in Mangaung.

“I am sure the (credit ratings) downgrade will soon be turned into an upgrade.”

Ramaphosa also urged ratings agencies to “read our policies” and not only depend on newspaper headlines.

On Friday Moody’s said the ANC looked “more investor- and business-friendly than had been anticipated prior to the conference”.

Ramaphosa said the ANC wanted a “mixed economy” in which the state intervenes, but only to a limited extent.

He also said he would initiate a review of his business ­interests, estimated to be worth about R3 billion, to avoid conflicts of interest.

Ramaphosa’s Shanduka company is ­heavily invested in a number of ­industries regulated by the state.

One example of a possible conflict is the department of energy’s awarding of a 20-year R1.7 billion Karoo wind power tender to a Shanduka-Spanish joint venture.

The department’s minister, Dipuo Peters, is now Ramaphosa’s junior in the ANC.

– Additional reporting by Charles Smith, Vicus Burger and Pieter Steyn

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