But in the end, Cyril Ramaphosa was beaten by Jaco Troskie, son of Bloemfontein film magnate Boet Troskie, who paid a record R20 million for the buffalo cow – and her calf – at a game auction near Rustenburg.
Ramaphosa bid up to R19.5 million, but decided to call it a day at that point.
Earlier, as the figure approached R10 million, most of the bidders, who arrived in flashy cars and as many as 10 helicopters, started to quit.
That left only three big guns – Ramaphosa, Troskie and Peter Bellingham, who paid a record R18 million for a buffalo bull called Senatla last year.
Approximately 2 000 onlookers and prospective buyers burst into applause when the bidding reached the R18 million mark.
But in the end, with a single, almost unobtrusive, gesture, Troskie indicated he would raise Ramaphosa’s bid by another half a million rand. Deal done.
Now he is the proud owner of the biggest buffalo cow in captivity anywhere in the world, and her calf.
Seller Piet du Toit burst into tears when the auctioneer’s hammer came down.
“I put up for sale the animal with the best genes and hoped for the best, but this exceeds my wildest expectations,” Du Toit said.
The auction was held on Du Toit’s farm and about 250 animals were sold.
Troskie said R20 million was a bargain.
“When the cow has four calves, I will already have got my money back,” he said.
Ramaphosa said later that his budget did not allow him to pay R20 million for the cow.
“I spent my budget on other animals. And, like any businessman, you must know when to stop,” he said.
Du Toit said there was tremendous interest in scarce game because of their immense investment value.
“The buffalo market in particular was made lively by people who went deeper and deeper into the bush to find the big bulls, and started breeding super genetics.
“In the end, these animals are preserved for future generations,” he said.