South Africa angry over Trump’s tweet on land seizures
London, August 23, 2018 (AltAfrica)-South Africa has reacted angrily to Donald Trump’s order to his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures” and the “large scale killing of farmers”.
“South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past,” the government said in a tweet on Thursday.
Trump had posted a quote from Fox News on Twitter overnight alleging the South African government was seizing land from white farmers.
“The presidency has noted Trump’s tweet, which is misinformed in our view,” said Khusela Diko, a spokesperson for the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa. “We will take up the matter through diplomatic channels.”
Land ownership is a deeply divisive issue in South Africa: 72% is in the hands of white farmers, according to the Land Audit Report, despite white people making up just 8% of the country’s population.
All major political parties have agreed there is a need for extensive land reform. On 1 August Ramaphosa announced that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) would forge ahead with plans to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation, a motion passed by parliament in February.
In parliament on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said the question of land was not going to go away and an answer was required to heal the historical “festering wound” of dispossession.
“We must transform land or property ownership in our country. That goes without saying. It must be underpinned by development … We must do it in a way that shall enhance stability in our country,” he told legislators.
Trump is the latest in a string of leaders to have taken up the cause of white South African farmers this year.
In March, Peter Dutton, then home affairs minister for Australia, who this week challenged Malcolm Turnbull to become prime minister, announced that white farmers from South Africa “deserve special attention” and that his department was examining a range of methods to fast-track visas for them.
The South African government said it was offended by Dutton’s statements and demanded a retraction.
Trump repeated the rhetoric of South African farmers being particularly vulnerable to violence. The issue is controversial and statistics are contested. However, according to research by one of South Africa’s biggest farmers’ organisations, such murders are at a 20-year low.
In 2017-18, 47 farmers were killed, according to statistics compiled by AgriSA, an association of hundreds of agricultural groups across South Africa. Violence against farmers peaked in 1998 when 153 died. Between 80 and 100 were murdered each year from 2003 to 2011, and about 60 until 2016.
Despite the decline in the number of fatalities there has been a rise in the number of attacks on farms, from 478 in 2016-17 to 561 a year later.
The figures have been challenged by other organisations representing farmers in South Africa such as Afriforum, a lobby group that campaigns for the interests of South Africa’s white Afrikaans-speaking minority. But AgriSA said its research was reliable.
Senior officials from Afriforum travelled to the US in May where they met Carlson, the Fox news host quoted by Trump in his tweet.