CAPE TOWN: South Africa accused US President Donald Trump of fuelling racial tensions after he said farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed.
Trump’s tweet touches on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa – one of the most sensitive issues in the country’s post-apartheid history.
Responding within hours, the government angrily said: “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,” it said on its official Twitter account.”
Trump wrote overnight: “I have asked Secretary of State (Mike)… Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”
His 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.
“‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers’,” said the post, which tagged the show’s host, Tucker Carlson, as well as the channel.
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.
Even though apartheid ended in 1994, 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, Ramaphosa said.