If Cyril Ramaphosa clinches the presidency in South Africa – which he might as ANC leader – Africa will have three Presidents who have a unique hobby: keeping the long-horned Ankole cattle.
Ramaphosa and Rwanda President Paul Kagame are regular visitors to Uganda President Yoweri Museveni’s expansive farm in Kisozi – from where they purchase herds for their farms.
It was Museveni who introduced the Ankole cows to Cyril Ramaphosa – who has become one of the biggest breeders in South Africa.
Museveni talks glowingly of his cows: “This indigenous breed is much more resistant to diseases than the Friesians and less costly to rear. It has high quality beef compared to Fresian breed,” he told a Ugandan journalist. “These cows live up to over 20 years and can have about 14 times of calving. As Africans, we should embrace who we are and cease having low esteem, which drives us to love everything foreign,” he said.
In Kisozi farm, each cow on average produces about 25 litres of milk daily and the president has been working to improve the yield.
“Some people concentrate on the physical look of cows, their colour, the shape of horns etc. I believe we should first concentrate on milk yield and beauty thereafter. Not-so-beautiful cows can still produce more milk than those with good colours,” the President says.
When Ramaphosa first visited Museveni, he was taken to see these cows. He purchased a selection at the knock-down price of $200 a head and trucked them over the border to Ol Pejeta in Kenya before they started their journey to South Africa.
Ramaphosa would later sell one bull for $53,000 which was a fortune!
Ramaphosa is so much in love with Museveni’s cows that at his sixty-fifth birthday party he launched a lavish coffee-table book titled Cattle of the Ages, which is about his great obsession with Ankole cows.
The book, which retails at $40 has many photographs by the renowned South African photographer Daniel Naudé, and is a celebration of Ramaphosa’s herd of long-horned cattle which he now breeds at his ranch on the Mpumalanga escarpment, east of Johannesburg.
In the book, Ramaphosa describes the Ankole as “the most magnificent breed of cattle in the world.” He writes; they had lit an “unexpected fire in my heart” ever since he’d seen them on a visit to the ranch of the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, in 2004.
At the launch of his book, he said he chose the title Cattle of the Ages rather than Cattle of the Kings because of his egalitarian ambitions for the beasts: he plans to loan his animals to developing black farmers to help them improve the bloodlines of their own stock.
“Somewhere in the depths of my soul is the connection my father had to his cattle, the hills of Khalavha and his people,” he writes.
“My love for cattle could be a reflection of my father in me; or some form of agency on behalf of my father, Samuel Mundzhedzi Ramaphosa,” because as “in most African cultures, cattle are a sign of wealth and stature among my father’s people,” the vhaVenda
For Paul Kagame, he has used his own cows for diplomatic manoeuvres in the region. In 2011, when it was reported that he had fallen out with Museveni, he visited Uganda and donated
The Ankole are known as the “Cattle of the Kings”; their extravagant horns curve into regal arcs. Ramaphosa now has over a hundred of these animals; one of his bulls recently fetched 10 long horned Rwanda cattle, commonly known as Inyambo while Museveni gave him 20 Ankole cows.
And that is how the Ankole cows are faring in African politics.