Azapo sets its sights on latest trophy, Ramaphosa

A petition sponsored by Azapo is calling on Parliament to investigate Ramaphosa’s part in the trophy hunting business and on the public to sign it. The party’s spokesperson, Lazola Kati, comments: “The latest Phala Phala scandal highlighted something about President Ramaphosa that was not new to us. Land set aside for nature conservation and tourism serve only to further enrich the ultra-wealthy, whereas it should be for the benefit of the dispossessed.” Her day job is at Change.org, which flight petitions on behalf of clients on various social media platforms. But the petition omits to mention that just four days after the PETA report was published in 2020, the presidency issued a formal response in which it was claimed the allegations were “patently false”. Below, Martin Welz analyses some of the facts around the allegations. – Sandra Laurence

Trophy hunting for Cyril Ramaphosa’s head?

In South African politics, anything is possible.

By Martin Welz

In recent weeks the Azanian People’s Organization (Azapo), flag-bearer for Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement, has been sponsoring an online petition calling on Parliament to investigate President Cyril Ramaphosa’s alleged financial involvement in a trophy hunting business operating on the borders of the Kruger National Park.

Members of the public are urged by the promoters to sign the petition because: “Trophy hunters pay thousands of dollars to shoot animals and keep their dead heads as trophies. This is the kind of business of which the President of South Africa is part owner

“A sitting President having a business interest in trophy hunting would create a barrier to any decision that his government would have to take in favour of animal rights and nature conservation.

“This petition demands: 

  • An investigation into the extent of the President’s “ involvement in the running of Tsala Hunting Safaris and the financial benefits that he derives from it. 
  • That the financial benefits derived by the President from Phala Phala and Tsala Hunting Safaris be donated to wildlife conservation.”

The petition promoters base their case on an undercover investigation conducted by an American animal rights group, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Founded in 1980, PETA employs 389 people, has an annual budget of as much as $40m and is one of the world’s largest non-profit organisations promoting animal rights.

Besides promoting a vegan lifestyle, PETA has conducted several such undercover investigations in America and elsewhere aimed at dramatically exposing animal abuse and cruelty. (For more about PETA, see footnote.)

PETA surreptitiously recorded conversations in which Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala management staff say that he “shares equally” in the profits from all hunts conducted through Tsala Hunting Safaris and speak of the importance of concealing his involvement. One is heard to say: “We try to keep the president’s name actually out of the hunting thing …. So he wanna spare himself this, how can I say, bad publicity and all of that. So … we gotta do it under a different name brand, where none of my name or his name are connected to it.”

In PETA’s recordings they also say that he was quietly developing and expanding a trophy hunting property called Diepdrift—stocking it with animals from his personal wildlife-breeding operation, Phala Phala, and “feeding the animals from Phala Phala into Tsala Hunting Safaris”.

In addition, PETA surreptitiously obtained video footage of an inexperienced American trophy hunter who has to fire several shots – “aim higher!” a ranger is heard urging him – to kill a young elephant that, it is suggested, may have wandered from the Kruger National Park on to Ramaphosa’s property. There are no fences between the President’s game farm, classified as a conservation area, and Kruger.

PETA comments: “The video shows the amount of cruelty that is permissible when hunters pay to hunt on these grounds.” They also reveal that the hunter paid $30,000 for the privilege, and a further $20,000 to have the animal’s ‘preserved’ body parts transported by United Parcel Delivery (UPD) to the USA for ‘re-assembly’ by a taxidermist.

At the time of writing this news report, close on 8,000 people had been moved to sign the online petition.

But, on closer examination there are some curious twists to the story. For a start, Azapo has never before, to my knowledge, been a campaigner for animal rights and nature conservation. Then the petition blurb does not reveal that the PETA report was dated November 19, 2020. Admittedly it escaped media attention at the time, but how come only now, nearly two years later, launch a petition via social media?

Azapo spokesperson Lazola Kati explains: “The latest Phala Phala scandal highlighted something about President Ramaphosa that was not new to us. Land set aside for nature conservation and tourism serve only to further enrich the ultra-wealthy, whereas it should be for the benefit of the dispossessed. So we decided to do some research on Phala Phala’s past and came upon the PETA report, which confirmed our view. Running a petition is a good way to raise the necessary public awareness.”

Kati should know: she works for Change.org, which flight petitions on behalf of clients on various social media platforms. The petitioners also omit to mention that just four days after the PETA report was published in 2020, the presidency had issued a formal response in which it was claimed the allegations were “patently false”. The “facts”, according to the Presidency, were, inter alia, that:

  • “neither the President nor Phala Phala had a stake in the trophy hunting industry or in Tsala Hunting Safaris. [although there had been a fee-sharing relationship with the latter; see below] and
  • “Phala Phala is run in accordance with the strictest conservation and wildlife management principles.”

To clarify the “nature of the relationship” between Phala Phala and Tsala Hunting Safaris, the presidency said this:

  • “Phala Phala undertakes annual culls of game such as impala, buffalo, kudu and wildebeest to avoid carrying excess numbers. Culling is an established wildlife management tool practised around the globe, including in state-run conservation reserves.
  • “Phala Phala entered into an agreement with Tsala Hunting Safaris to hunt the aforementioned game that would in any event have been culled.” [Nothing in the statement contradicted his employees’ recorded claim that Phala Phala and Tsala shared the hunting proceeds 50/50 in terms of that agreement.]

The statement continued: “In the light of allegations that Tsala engages in the hunting of threatened or protected species on other properties, Phala Phala has given notice to Tsala Safaris to terminate the hunting arrangement with Them.”

So, whatever anyone might have thought of the relationship/arrangement between the culler and the [trophy] hunter, the relationship was terminated in response to the PETA disclosures already in November 2020.

Back to Azapo’s spokesperson. Yes, Azapo knew about the presidency statement – but was not persuaded by it. “American hunters don’t travel all this way to shoot an eland,” Kati told BizNews. “Is he suggesting he did not know Phala Phala had got 50% of the $30,000 fee that the American paid to shoot that elephant on his property? And why is it not fenced off from Kruger, except to allow the odd elephant and lion to wander onto his property as a target for the next dollar-paying trophy hunter?”

Or are we witnessing just another kind of trophy hunt?

***

Some more about PETA

Paul McCartney, Alicia Silverstone, Eva Mendes, Charlize Theron, Ellen DeGeneres, and many other notable celebrities have appeared in PETA ads.

Many of its campaigns have focused on large corporations. The campaigns have resulted in McDonald’s and Wendy’s introducing vegetarian options after PETA targeted them; and Polo Ralph Lauren said it would no longer use fur. Avon, Estée Lauder, Benetton, and Tonka Toy Co all stopped testing products on animals, the Pentagon stopped shooting pigs and goats in wounds tests, and a slaughterhouse in Texas was closed down.

A few examples of their many undercover investigations:

In 2004, PETA released video tapes taken from eight months of undercover filming in a West Virginia slaughterhouse that supplies chicken to the fast food industry. The recordings showed workers stomping on live chickens and throwing dozens against a wall. Eleven employees were fired and the company introduced an anti-cruelty pledge for workers to sign.

In 2006, PETA filmed a trainer at Carson & Barnes Circus instructing others to beat the elephants to make them obey. A company spokesman said they stopped using electrical prods on animals after the video was released.

In 2007, the owners of a chinchilla ranch in Michigan sued PETA after pretending in 2004 to be interested buyers and secretly filming them, creating the video Nightmare on Chinchilla Farm. A judge dismissed the case, writing that “Undercover investigations are one of the main ways our criminal justice system operates” and noted that investigative television shows “often conduct undercover investigations to reveal improper, unethical, or criminal behaviour.”

And, finally, a PETA response to an incident many of us remember:

After Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer admitted that he had killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe in 2015, PETA’s president, Ingrid Newkirk, issued a statement on behalf of PETA in which she said: “Hunting is a coward’s pastime. If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.”

– Wikipedia

https://bit.ly/Phalaphalapetition

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