S.African Farmers 'Furious' over Trump Land Reform Tweet

Manila Bulletin, August 26, 2018 | Go to article overview

S.African Farmers 'Furious' over Trump Land Reform Tweet


By Agence France-Presse

South African farmers have demanded Donald Trump "leave us the hell alone" after the US president criticized the country's land reform plans, accusing him of trying to deflect attention from his own scandals.

"The people were furious about Trump -- and I think they still are," said Preline Swart, a 37-year-old black woman who farms grain and cattle with her husband east of Cape Town.

"He's an outsider and he knows nothing about farming," she said on the sidelines of a summit of farmers, officials and industry players in Bela Bela, 100 miles (160 kilometres) northeast of Johannesburg.

Trump's Wednesday tweet, posted on the eve of the "Land Solution" gathering, touched on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa -- one of the most sensitive issues in the country's post-apartheid history.

"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," tweeted Trump to his 54 million followers.

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 Trump's post, which tagged the show's host, Tucker Carlson, as well as the channel.

"I think Donald Trump must really take his long hair... and leave our people the hell alone," added Swart.

While many of the farmers at Thursday and Friday's land summit rejected Trump's intervention, many are unsure what the government's plan to expropriate land to fix historical injustices will mean for them.

"The deputy president assured farmers government isn't going to do anything reckless," said conference speaker Tshilidzi Matshidzula, 30, a dairy farmer with 1,000 cattle on his ranch in the country's Eastern Cape province.

"(But) as a farmer, although I'm black, expropriation is a serious concern. The sooner we get formal clarity on how it will be handled, the better."

'Alarmist, false, inaccurate'

As he spoke, other black delegates congratulated Matshidzula for the speech he had just given on how to resolve land inequality.

According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who himself farms cattle on a 5,100 hectare ranch, the white community that makes up eight percent of the population "possess 72 percent of farms".

In contrast, "only four percent" of farms are in the hands of black people who make up four-fifths of the population.

The stark disparity stems from purchases and seizures during the colonial era that were then enshrined in law during apartheid. …

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