South Africa has described a tweet by Donald Trump ordering his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to look into the alleged seizure of farms and “large-scale killing of farmers” as polarising and based on false information and lobbying.
Trump’s controversial tweet followed a segment on Fox News on Wednesday in which the host Tucker Carlson claimed the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, had started “seizing land from his own citizens without compensation because they are the wrong skin colour”, and called the action “immoral”.
On Thursday, South Africa accused the US president of stoking racial divisions and summoned Washington’s chargée d’affaires in South Africa, Jessye Lapenn.
Trump’s tweet delighted white nationalists in the US, who have increasingly made South African land rights a talking point, but prompted derision and anger in South Africa.
All major political parties in South Africa agree on the need for extensive land reform in the country, where 72% of agricultural land is in the hands of white farmers, according to the Land Audit Report, despite white people making up 8% of the population.
On 1 August, Ramaphosa announced that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party would move forward with plans to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation, a motion passed by parliament in February.
Almost 25 years after the end of apartheid, the land issue has become a focus of economic and social grievances in what has remained one of the most unequal countries in the world.
Public hearings are under way to gauge support for the policy.
SOURCE: Jason Burke