Shortly after watching a Fox News report on the matter, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into land seizures from white farmers in South Africa, criticizing a measure designed to redress racial inequalities.
The tweet also appeared to echo a commonly held belief of white nationalists that sees the murder of white farmers in South Africa as a “genocide.”
The segment broadcast Wednesday night reported on a plan announced earlier this month by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, which would see the constitution altered to allow land expropriation without compensation from land-owning farmers, most of whom are white even two decades after the end of apartheid.
“I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and large scale killing of farmers,” Trump wrote, before quoting Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who claimed the “South African government is now seizing land from white farmers.”
The land expropriation measure was passed by South Africa’s parliament in May and Ramaphosa stated on August 1 that Pretoria intends to move forward with the plan.
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.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
Seventy-two percent of land in South Africa is owned by white farmers, despite accounting for just 8% of the population, according to the Land Audit Report.
Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the ruling African National Congress party has adopted a “willing-seller, willing-buyer” model in which the government has tried to redistribute land to blacks by buying farms from white owners. However, impact has been limited, with the percentage of non-white landowners climbing just 14% in 28 years, leading the government to entertain additional measures.
While Trump appeared most disturbed by the Fox News report’s emphasis on violence against farmers, statistics from the Agrisa South African agricultural umbrella group show that the phenomenon has dramatically declined in recent years.
In 2017-2018, 47 farmers were killed, as opposed to 60 in 2016, 80 to 100 deaths between 2003 to 2011 and 153 in 1998.
The South African government’s official Twitter account responded to Trump’s post on Thursday, saying it “totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.”
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) August 23, 2018