President Cyril Ramaphosa has retrenched 22 of the 46 permanent staff at the Ntabanyoni farm in Badplaas, Mpumalanga.
Farm manager Ben Molotsi told HeraldLive that foot-and-mouth disease led to the decision to either retrench staff or liquidate the farm.
The president reportedly travelled to the farm and personally delivered the news on October 25.
HeraldLive quotes workers as being devastated at losing their livelihoods, particularly before the festive season, with one former employee telling the publication he had 11 dependents.
At the farm, Ramaphosa reared Ankole, a rare breed of Ugandan cattle which he is passionate about, according to Farmer’s Weekly.
He became interested in the animals when he visited Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni in 2004.
The president is known for his love of game and has been nicknamed “Buffalo” after he bid R18 million for a buffalo and her calf at an auction in 2012. He was outbid.
He later apologised for having offended people by attempting to buy the expensive animal.
“I regret it because it is an excessive price in the sea of poverty. I belong to a community and it was one of those moments when I was blind-sighted,” said Ramaphosa.
In September last year, Ramaphosa sold R19 million worth of game at an auction, including an Ankole cow and three buffaloes.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)