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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: New Book On Cyril Ramaphosa's Cattle Farm

Cattle of the Ages gives us a glimpse into the deputy president's "proudest achievement", his Ankole breeding programme in Mpumalanga.

21/11/2017 12:22 SAST | Updated 21/11/2017 13:08 SAST
Daniel Naude

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa released an extraordinary book this week, called Cattle of the Ages, that explains his long-time passion for the Ankole, a breed of long-horned cattle common in Africa, and has for the first time shared images of his Mpumalanga game farm.

In the book Ramaphosa calls the breeding programme of long-horned cattle his "proudest achievement" and reveals the psychological impact of watching his father's Venda cattle farm going to ruin after he had to leave it behind to go and find work in Johannesburg.

"Like many of the men of my father's generation, he had no choice but to go to the city of Johannesburg to find work. His traditions, his wealth and his very identity were left behind, and whatever wealth he had built up would later be eroded," Ramaphosa writes in the book.

"I am sure my late cattle-loving father would have been proud to see that I have become a cattle breeder."

Ugandan president Yuweri Museveni introduced Ramaphosa to the Ankole cattle breed when the two met on Museveni's own Ankole ranch, he explains.

"I was intrigued and in awe and fell in love with these creatures immediately. President Museveni and I exchanged a few pleasantries, but I couldn't help myself. 'Please,' I said. 'You must tell me about these cattle. They are simply beautiful,​​​'" Ramaphosa writes.

Breathtaking images captured by famous livestock photographer Daniel Naude accompany the text, which further details how Ramaphosa introduced the breed to South Africa and what it took to get the breed registered here.

"My visit to Uganda made it clear to me that these cattle could bring many advantages to the cattle-farming community in South Africa, and so I set to work to bring some Ankole to our country," he writes.

"But there were several barriers to overcome. After reaching a sale-and-purchase agreement with President Museveni, I returned home and immediately contacted the Department of Agriculture to see how I should go about bringing the Ankole to South Africa and getting them registered as a new breed."

But Ramaphosa was told that he would not be permitted to bring live animals into South Africa.

"The department was concerned about different strains of animal diseases from that part of Africa; and about South Africa's lack of knowledge concerning animal disease-control measures in Uganda. I found this incredible and felt almost mortally disappointed at the prohibition... But I knew I could not give up so easily," he writes.

It eventually led to the deputy president working with local embryo-transfer experts to clone the Ankole cattle in South Africa from embryos harvested from Museveni's herd.

Ten years after the first Ankole was born on South African soil, Ramaphosa is now one of the continent's biggest breeders. Ankole meat is excellent, he writes, and their milk very rich.

The book also reveals Ramapahosa's wife's Tshepo Motsepe's passion for the animals.

"I believe she has fallen even more deeply in love with the Ankole than I have," he writes. "She knows many of our cattle by name and loves to photograph them with every chance she gets. Thinking back to the cattle I presented to her father as lobola, I know I have been abundantly recompensed by Tshepo's love and the ways in which she puts up with my mad passions. I am forever humbled."