South Africa accused United States President Donald Trump of sowing division on Thursday after he tweeted that the State Department would probe “land and farm seizures… and the large scale killing of farmers”.
Trump’s tweet apparently followed a segment on conservative Fox News about Pretoria’s plan to change the constitution to speed up expropriation of land without compensation to redress racial imbalances in land ownership.
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He added that he had “asked Secretary of State (Mike Pompeo) to closely study” the situation.
“‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers’,” said the post that tagged the show’s host Tucker Carlson as well as the channel.
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.
As elections due in 2019 approach, President Cyril Ramaphosa has intervened to accelerate land reform in order to “undo a grave historical injustice” against the black majority during colonialism and the apartheid era that ended in 1994.
Twenty-four years on and the white community that makes up eight percent of the population “possess 72 percent of farms” compared to “only four percent” in the hands of black people who make up four-fifths of the population, according to Ramaphosa.
To remedy the imbalance, the president recently announced that the constitution would be altered to allow for land to be seized and redistributed without compensation to the current owners.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton sparked a diplomatic row with Pretoria in March after he said that Canberra should give “special attention” to white South African farmers seeking asylum because they faced a “horrific” situation.