South Africa’s government in an official tweet on Thursday called out U. S. President Donald Trump’s tweet on land reform as a “narrow perception” that divides the nation. “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past,” the government said in a post on Twitter.
The South African presidency said it will seek clarification from the U.S. embassy about a tweet from Trump about land reform. Trump tweeted late on Wednesday that he would ask his Secretary of State to look closely at “the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and large-scale killing of farmers.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman Khusela Diko was not immediately available for comment.
Ramaphosa announced on Aug. 1 that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) plans to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation, as whites still own most of South Africa’s land.
Ramaphosa has said any land reform will be conducted without an impact on economic growth or food security.
No land has been “seized” since the reform plans were announced, the ANC says.
Violent crime is a serious problem across South Africa and 47 farmers were killed in 2017, according to statistics from AgriSA, an association of agricultural associations. However, farm murders are at a 20-year low.
Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the ANC has followed a “willing-seller, willing-buyer” model under which the government buys white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks.
Progress has been slow and most South Africans believe something has to be done to accelerate change, providing it does not hurt the economy or stoke unrest.
“Reforming the land distribution and ownership will be good for South Africa,” said political analyst Nic Borain.
“That there will be instability and worries about property rights is inevitable, but we don’t expect that the government will act in a way that radically destabilizes investor security.”
Trump’s tweet came days after it was announced that his wife, Melania, would travel to Africa in October for her first major solo international trip as first lady.
In January, South Africa protested to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria about reported remarks by Trump that some immigrants from Africa and Haiti came from “shithole” countries.
South Africa’s foreign ministry called the remarks, which sources said Trump made during a meeting on immigration legislation, “crude and offensive” and said Trump’s subsequent denial was not categorical.
AfriForum, an organization that mostly represents white South Africans who have described land expropriation as “catastrophic”, traveled to the United States earlier this year to lobby the Senate and other officials.