Ramaphosa prepares to sell more buffalo as farm scandal swirls

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One of president Cyril Ramaphosa's Ankole bulls, which fetched R112 500 at a previous auction. Photo: Veilingswinkel
One of president Cyril Ramaphosa's Ankole bulls, which fetched R112 500 at a previous auction. Photo: Veilingswinkel

In the midst of a political firestorm around whether or not President Cyril Ramaphosa properly reported the theft of money from the sale of game, his Phala Phala farm has put up at least 13 African buffaloes for auction. 

In June, former spy chief Arthur Fraser laid charges with the police against the president, alleging that the 2020 theft of more than $4 million (R65 miillion) hidden inside furniture at the property hadn’t been properly reported. 

News24 reported on Wednesday that burglars took only $600 000 (R9.8 million) in cash, the proceeds from the sale of a single buffalo to a Dubai-based individual, and the money had been stored in a cupboard.

READ | EXCLUSIVE | Phala Phala theft: The Dubai buyer, a buffalo and the stolen $600 000

Ramaphosa has faced demands from opposition parties, civil society and the nation’s graft ombudsman to explain what happened. South Africa’s parliament said last week it will appoint an independent panel that will recommend whether or not to initiate a process to impeach the president. 

He has meanwhile responded to questions from the ombudsman about the incident, but the answers haven’t been made public.

Speculation has swirled that he may have breached tax rules and foreign exchange regulations. 

Catalogs on the website of auction house Wildswinkel, which means game shop in Afrikaans, show Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala will have 12 lots on offer at a sale that starts on August 31, and 18 lots at the Sept. 3 annual live sale of Stud Game Breeders at the Zebula Golf Estate, 209 kilometers north of Johannesburg. Those lots include the buffaloes, Ankole cattle, a rare long-horn Ugandan breed, and sable antelope. 

Phala Phala is part of the six-member consortium Stud Game Breeders, which includes Nyumbu Wildlife owned by Norman Adami, the former chairman of SABMiller's local unit.

All the payments on Wildswinkel auctions are done via electronic transfer, Chief Operating Officer JP Smith said by phone.

At Stud Game Breeders’ live auction in 2017, three months before he became leader of the ruling African National Congress, Ramaphosa sold animals worth R15 million. That, and earlier sales and purchases, has led to criticism of his wealth in the world’s most unequal nation as well as his portrayal as a buffalo on social media and in newspaper cartoons. 

Calls to the mobile phone of Hendrik von Wielligh, Ramaphosa’s farm manager at Phala Phala, weren’t answered. Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, referred queries to auction organisers Wildswinkel. 

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