Cattle sale that dragged Ramaphosa into political storm is back

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been fending off allegations that he covered up a robbery at his game farm in the northern Limpopo province, plans to hold a cattle auction at the property next week.

Ramaphosa is one of the country’s biggest farmers of Ankole cattle, a rare, long-horn, Ugandan breed, and a number of the prized livestock will be up for sale, according to the auction website. A lawyer and one of the richest black South Africans, the 69-year-old president started farming the animals after a meeting with his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni.

One of the lots Ramaphosa will be offering for sale at next week’s auction consist of five frozen embryos from a cow named Rogo and a bull called Diambo, whose “progeny are some of the most sought after Ankole in South Africa,” according to the sale catalog. At an auction in 2017, three months before Ramaphosa became leader of the ANC, some of his Ankole cattle sold for as much as R520 000 each.

Former spy boss Arthur Fraser laid criminal charges against Ramaphosa last week, accusing him of concealing the theft of more than $4 million from the Phala Phala farm in February 2020. Ramaphosa has confirmed that money he earned from the sale of animals was taken while he was attending an African Union summit in Ethiopia, but far less than Fraser alleged, and denied doing anything wrong.

Political tensions are mounting ahead of the ruling African National Congress’s December conference in December. Ramaphosa appears likely to retain his position as head of the party as his allies continue to win control of key party structures. Under the ANC’s rules, whoever is elected party leader will also be its presidential candidate.

Ramaphosa also came under fire in the lead-up to the ANC’s previous national conference in December 2017, when his detractors disclosed that he had had an extramarital affair. Ramaphosa admitted to the transgression and narrowly won control of the party. He became president two months later when the ANC forced Jacob Zuma to quit to stem a loss of electoral support.

Opinion polls show the president is far more popular than the ANC, which has ruled the country since the end of apartheid in 1994.

© 2022 Bloomberg