Buffalo soldier calms fears

2012-12-20 00:00

ANC DEPUTY president Cyril Ramaphosa — a wildlife farmer — has emerged as a key figure in calming fears in the agriculture sector about the party’s land reform and nationalisation policies.

Top agricultural players said they were over the moon about Ramaphosa’s election as the ANC’s second-in-charge.

Sister newspaper Volksblad spoke to six senior players in the farming sector.

They spilled the beans on a series of secret meetings held between Ramaphosa and some of the country’s richest farmers in recent months.

Ramaphosa flew in his private helicopter to some of these meetings, which were held on game farms.

The billionaire’s wealth has been on the agenda since the ANC elected him as President Jacob Zuma’s deputy this week.

Ramaphosa’s riches are estimated at R3,1 billion and he announced yesterday that he would review his business interests to avoid a conflict of interest.

It is widely speculated that Ramaphosa might take over as deputy president of the country before the 2014 general election.

Ramaphosa apparently owns a number of game farms in South Africa’s northern provinces and is said to have invested “millions upon millions” in rare species, like the buffalo and sable antelope.

He is not selling yet and specialises in breeding wild animals. He came under fire

this year for an unsuccessful multi-million bid on a buffalo.Ramaphosa recently flew super-rich businessmen to his farms to encourage their investment in the wildlife sector.The meetings were held on farms in the Northern Cape and involved Ramaphosa, a top wildlife farmer and member of Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA) and other game farmers.

Ramaphosa is one of seven members of Stud Game Breeders. They make between R130 million and R140 million annually from wildlife auctions.

Volksblad was told that the politician was investing only in “top genetics” at the moment and was not yet auctioning off his animals.

Wihan van der Linde, owner of the Wintershoek game farm close to Kimberley and director of WRSA, confirmed Ramaphosa’s involvement in several meetings.

The industry had been concerned about the ANC’s plans for land and agriculture.

“He was always involved and a sounding board off whom you could bounce anything. He is always positive. You always feel better after speaking to him,” Van der Linde said.

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.

Ramaphosa was a capitalist who understood the private sector and knew business could run mines more effectively than the state.

“He is a landowner who knows land must produce. If you don’t produce, you don’t have food. He understands this principle. We are not against land reform. It must happen, but he [Ramaphosa] knows it should be sustainable,” Minnaar said.

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

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

He could now encourage his overseas friends to invest in South Africa.

“I have great expectations of Cyril. He is one of the brightest businessmen and cleverest people I know.

“He understands marketing and that is something South Africa now desperately needs,” said Troskie.

The focus needed to shift from political parties and South Africa needed to be marketed as a safe haven for investment

“Cyril is the right man for this. He has lots of credibility,” said Troskie.

AgriSA also praised Ramaphosa’s election. The agricultural union’s deputy president, Theo de Jager, said Ramaphosa had first-hand experience of agriculture.

The new ANC deputy was not only a game farmer, but also planted crops for seed and farmed with cattle.

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