Donald Trump land reform tweet sparks angry South African reaction
An order by President Trump to U.S. officials to “study the South Africa land and farm seizures” and reports of “large-scale killing of farmers” has drawn an angry reaction in a country where race and land ownership remain a divisive legacy of its apartheid past.
Late Wednesday, Mr. Trump tweeted that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into the controversial policy of the South African government to accelerate a program taking land from mostly white-owned landowners to be given to the country’s large black majority in some cases without compensation to owners.
Mr. Trump’s tweet on the issue cited a report that night by the Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
On Thursday, South African officials called the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria to explain Mr. Trump’s tweet, insisting it was based on false information.
“South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past,” the South African Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu on Thursday said that “the unfortunate comments on Twitter by the President of the United States” were “based on false information.” He added that he would communicate with Mr. Pompeo through diplomatic channels regarding the issue.
Since South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994, land redistribution and inequality have been an ongoing debate, with government officials frequently criticized for not moving fast enough to address the imbalance in which the white minority still claimed nearly three-fourths of the country’s farmland. A similar push by Zimbabwe’s government in the early 2000s is blamed by many with cratering the economy and leading to widespread shortages, joblessness and hyperinflation.
The issue is in the headlines again in South Africa ahead of next year’s elections, with recent moves by the ruling African National Congress to change compensation rules for seized land stirring controversy, raising the possibility that some land could be taken from owners without compensation.
On Thursday, a spokeswoman for President Cyril Ramaphosa, told CNN that “hysterical comments and statements do not assist in the process.”
“The majority of South Africans want to see land reform,” spokesman Khusela Diko said. “The majority of our farmers, white and black, want to be a part of this initiative.”
But AfriForum, a controversial lobbying group inside South Africa that says it represents the interests of the country’s white Afrikaner minority, hailed Mr. Trump’s statement, saying it echoed many of the group’s complaints about the forced land expropriation program.