JOHANNESBURG – The South African government on Thursday deplored US President Donald Trump’s tweet on the government’s land reform plans and said it would raise the matter with the US embassy in Pretoria and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
The department of international relations said it was regrettable that Trump’s tweet that the government was seizing land from white farmers was not factually correct.
“The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu has noted the unfortunate comments on Twitter by the President of the United States of America, H.E. Donald Trump on land redistribution and crime. It is regrettable that the tweet is based on false information,” the department said.
The sentiment was echoed by Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. She told a briefing on Cabinet’s regular fortnightly meeting: “For any self-respecting nation, you would want to verify the facts.”
Sisulu’s department said she would communicate with Pompeo and had instructed officials to meet with the US embassy on Thursday still.
“The minister has thus instructed the department to meet with the US embassy in Pretoria to seek clarity on the matter today.”
Following a Fox News report that the South African government had begun expropriating land based on racist criteria, Trump tweeted: “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.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office responded by 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.
“South Africa has taken bold steps to address the colonial and historical injustices, including the dispossession of land and build a more inclusive and stable society in South Africa and the world.”
Trump’s tweet came hours after Ramaphosa told the National Assembly his government would push ahead with plans to amend section 25 of the Constitution to make explicit the circumstances under which the state could expropriate land without compensation.
He reiterated that South Africa risked instability if it failed to speed up land reform to redress the dispossession of land of the majority of South Africans under apartheid but rejected a call by the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters to nationalise all land.
The presidency in its statement on Thursday added: “Government supports land restitution and redistribution, which will redress the sins of the past by allowing access to the land in a way that grows the economy, ensures food security, and increases agricultural production.”
Mokonyane said South Africa would seek to communicate its plans on land reform through its diplomatic missions abroad and also brief foreign diplomats based in South Africa.
“This is an issue that we will continue to clarify through the proper channels… We refuse that South Africa should be compared to any other country.”
The minister said she did not believe the issue should affect trade relations between South Africa and the United States.
In May, Afrikaans rights lobby group Afriforum – which has declared that apartheid was not a crime against humanity – travelled to the United States in May to lobby international investors to divest in South Africa if the government went ahead with land expropriation without compensation.
Afriforum has also been very vocal about the killings of white farmers in South Africa, even inviting British controversial TV personality Katie Hopkins to South Africa to report on farm murders which she claimed was a result of ethnic cleansing.
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Review Committee of Parliament said on Wednesday that it was considering a preliminary report on written submissions, and an initial report on the nationwide public hearings conducted over the past two months on the proposal to amend section 25 of the Constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.
– African News Agency (ANA)