Businessman Cyril Ramaphosa has apologised for bidding at an auction for a buffalo amid a “sea of poverty”.
Ramaphosa’s bid for the animal, which fetched R20 million, has drawn flak from people like expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema in the wake of the Marikana tragedy, who accused Ramaphosa of being complicit in paying workers starvation wages at the Lonmin mine.
According to Sapa, Malema had told miners Ramaphosa had bid R18 million for the buffalo.
At the time, City Press reported Ramaphosa had bid up to R19.5 million for the buffalo cow and her calf but was outbid.
His investment company owns a 9% share of Lonmin on whose boards the ANC leader sits.
In an interview with SAfm talk show host Xolani Gwala, Ramaphosa apologised for making the bid, which he said had offended some people.
“It was a mistake to even put up my hand to do so. I’ve been chastised by some of my good comrades. And even before they chastised me I did admit it was a mistake.
“It is a mistake in the sea of poverty. I live in a community ... The damage has been done, I will live with it,” he said.
Ramaphosa has been touted as a possible candidate for the position of deputy president come Mangaung.
The jury is still out on the extent to which Marikana and the buffalo bid will affect his chances.
A few years ago, he objected when a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson suggested that he was one of the people who had bought the ultraluxurious Maybach car.
Ramaphosa today said he had been saddened by the Marikana deaths, which he likened to the death of mine workers in a 1987 wage strike in which 10 workers were killed.
He described the turn of events in Marikana as “depressing”, saying it was sad the tragedy had happened post-apartheid.
However, he admitted that transformation would take time in the industry.
Ramaphosa came out in support of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s remarks that the Lonmin wage deal set a bad precedent that could undermine collective bargaining in the mining industry in future.
Some callers suggested that as a black leader in the mining industry, Ramaphosa should be a catalyst for change.
He said while he articulated interests “of our people” in the company’s board, change takes a while and couldn’t be done through a “magic wand”.