Politics

Trump Tangles with South Africa on Confiscation of White Farmers’ Land

President directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 'to closely study' the situation, which is inflaming racial tensions

Image Credit: GULSHAN KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

South African government officials rebuked President Donald Trump Thursday after he directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures” of white farmers, occurring without compensation.

“South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception, which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past,” the government’s official account tweeted Thursday. “South Africa will speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation.”

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Trump reacted to and quoted from a Fox News report on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” when he tweeted late Wednesday, “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. ‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.’ @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews.”

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Racial tensions have continued to run high among South Africa’s black majority and white minority since the end of apartheid in 1994, a time that many black South Africans could not own their own land. White farmers in particular have often been subjected to violent crime in recent years, although the numbers have been declining.

South African government officials reportedly began their land redistribution program by seizing at least two white-owned farms without agreed-upon compensation in the Limpopo province, according to local newspaper City Press.

Although the government officials offered to purchase the expropriated farmland from the Akkerland Boerdery company’s owners, officials proposed to pay only $1.87 million, one-tenth of the company’s asking price of $18.7 million. And now the government is pursuing a constitutional amendment that would allow the seizure of white farmers’ land without any legal process or formal purchasing offers.

African National Congress (ANC) Chairman Gwede Mantashe alarmed white farm owners last week when he claimed during an interview with the website News24 that they shouldn’t “own more than 25,000 hectares of land,” and, if they do, “it should be taken without compensation.”

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation revealed it would seek a meeting with U.S. embassy officials Thursday for further clarification of Trump’s “unfortunate comments,” Bloomberg reported. Minister Lindiwe Sisulu also plans to “communicate with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on the matter through diplomatic channels.”

Related: South African Government Is Seizing Whites’ Farms with No Compensation

“It is regrettable that the tweet is based on false information,” Sisulu said, according to Reuters.

South Africa’s currency, the Rand, plummeted more than 1.5 percent against the dollar following Trump’s tweet.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told the nation’s National Assembly Wednesday that the government “decided that we should embark on a rapid release of land.”

“We want that land to be released so that it can be given to our people … Our local government should examine all land, and we will make a decision on how to deal with that land,” Ramaphosa said, according to local outlet Independent Online.

“It will be dealt with in an orderly fashion, in accordance with our constitution and with conviction,” Ramaphosa added. “The progressive transformation of our urban spaces is not just about radically addressing social poverty and racial inequities. We must make our cities generators of wealth and reservoirs of productivity.”

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