Donald Trump

Donald Trump wades into South Africa race politics with tweet about white farmer killings

The president’s tweet seem to have been prompted by a segment on Fox News in which host Tucker Carlson expounded on land seizures

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2018, 3:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2018, 3:39pm

US President Donald Trump waded into South African politics, saying in a tweet that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into “land and farm seizures” and the “large scale killing of farmers”.

South Africa is considering whether to implement a policy of seizing land without paying for it in a bid to address inequalities built up during apartheid.

Most land in the country is owned by the white minority. South Africa’s high crime rate has affected rural areas with some farmers killed in attacks.

“I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers,” Trump wrote late Wednesday on Twitter. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.”

South Africa’s official government Twitter account hit back within hours saying “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past”.

“South Africa will speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation,” wrote the government in a second post.

“The presidency has noted Trump’s tweet, which is misinformed in our view,” said Khusela Diko, a spokesperson for South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“We will take up the matter through diplomatic channels.”

South Africa’s government was expected to summon the US acting ambassador to explain Trump’s tweet, two people familiar with the situation said.

Statistics released in May by agricultural group AgriSA found that farm murders had decreased to 47 over previous year, less than one-third of the highs in the late-1990s, although other groups argue attacks have recently increased.

Ramaphosa – who took office after his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, was forced out amid a whirlwind of corruption investigations and scandals – has embraced land seizures without compensation as a means to achieve equality and racial justice – and as the ruling African National Congress faces growing opposition.

South Africa criticises ‘sad’ Australian plan to fast track visas for its supposedly persecuted white farmers

Trump was apparently reacting to a report on the land dispute that was featured on the Fox News show hosted by Tucker Carlson. Trump tagged Carlson in his tweet.

White farmers own almost three-quarters of South Africa’s agricultural land, according to an audit by AgriSA published last year.

Access to land is one of the symbols of inequality in the nation of about 56 million where wealth and poverty are largely divided along racial lines.

Groups that support the land owners have said that murders of white farmers were politically motivated. The cause of the farmers have been taken up by conservatives in other countries, including Peter Dutton, the Australian lawmaker who has mounted a leadership challenge against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Dutton, who was the Home Affairs minister until earlier this week, told reporters that he had asked his department to look into the possibility of admitting white South African farmers as refugees.

In February, lawmakers began a process to change the constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation in February after the ruling African National Congress decided in December to adopt the measure to speed up giving black people more land. Public hearings about the proposal started in June and will conclude this month.

Additional reporting by The Guardian, Reuters and Agence France-Presse