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Donald Trump Tweeted About Farmers in South Africa — and Sparked International Tensions

United States President Donald Trump has tweeted about “large-scale killing of farmers” in South Africa, sparking international controversy. 

Trump said that he had 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. 

“South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers,” he added. 

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The tweet followed a piece on Fox News about the planned land reforms in South Africa, so the president also tagged Fox News and Fox News host Tucker Carlson. 

But it has caused significant upset in South Africa, and prompted the country’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), to meet with the US embassy on Thursday. 

Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) minister Lindiwe Sisulu said Trump’s comment was "unfortunate" and it was "regrettable" that the tweet was based on false information. 

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“Minister Sisulu will also communicate with [US] secretary of state Michael Pompeo on the matter through diplomatic channels,” department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said in a statement.

The official Twitter account of the South African government later added: “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.”  

South Africa said last month that it would proceed with plans to amend the constitution, which would allow land to be expropriated without compensation. But it reportedly indicated that only unused land would be at risk of seizure. 

The claim of widespread killings of farmers is disputed by both official figures and the country’s biggest farmers’ group, reported the New York Times

The motion for land expropriation without compensation in the National Assembly was brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party in parliament earlier this year, and was supported with an amendment by the ANC, according to the Alternative Information and Development Centre.

The redistribution of land was a fundamental goal of the ANC during its efforts to counteract white-minority rule, reported the BBC. Yet even now, 24 years after the end of apartheid, there is significant imbalance. 

White people, who reportedly make up 9% of the population, currently own 72% of the farmland held by individuals, according to government figures cited by the BBC

Sisulu said South Africa has good political, economic, and trade relations with the US and that diplomatic channels remain open to provide clarity on issues of mutual interest. 

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Her stance was reiterated by communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane during a post-cabinet media briefing on Thursday. 

Mokonyane announced that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had appointed an Inter-Ministerial Committee to coordinate and implement measures to accelerate the redistribution of land, extension of security of tenure, provision of agricultural support, and the redress of spatial inequality, within a broad and comprehensive land redistribution and agricultural development programme. 

Deputy President David Mabuza will chair the Inter-Ministerial Committee. 

“We view the issues on land as very important matters related to the future of this country for economic growth, transformation, reconciliation, and for the restoration of the dignity of all South Africans,” Mokonyane said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa said a programme of land redistribution is required to heal the historical “festering wound” of land dispossession and enable the transformation and development without which South Africa will experience instability.

He urged members of parliament, as leaders of society, to focus on stability in the country and on the achievement of development through transformation.

The EFF’s commander-in-chief, Julius Malema, said on Thursday that if South Africans are not ready to expropriate the land because they are scared of sanctions, they should not vote for the EFF.

Meanwhile, AfriForum — which campaigns for the interests of Afrikaners in South Africa — welcomed Trump’s request for Pompeo to thoroughly investigate the illegal occupation of land and farms, expropriation, as well as the widespread murder of farmers in South Africa.

AfriForum said Trump’s announcement comes just three months after it sent a delegation to the US to inform the Cato Institute (a prominent American think-tank), Tucker Carlson, and various other institutions and politicians of the situation in this regard in South Africa.

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Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, thanked the Cato Institute, Carlson, and every other US role player that took a stand to make the ANC’s plans to amend the South African constitution to enable expropriation without compensation, as well as the farm murder crisis in South Africa, part of America’s public agenda.

According to Kriel, his organisation had no other choice but to garner international support against expropriation without compensation. Kriel indicated that Trump’s announcement is not only good news for property owners in South Africa, but for everyone in the country.

On the Fox show on Wednesday, Carlson reportedly read out a statement from the US state department, that said: "We are aware of these reports and have been following this issue very closely for some time. South Africa is a strong democracy, with resilient institutions including a free press and an independent judiciary."

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