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South Africa hits back at ‘misinformed’ Trump's tweet

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
South African police respond to an incident in which a farm worker was held at gunpoint and a chainsaw was stolen, in Tzaneen, South Africa, on November 2, 2017. (File photo by AFP)

South Africa has criticized US President Donald Trump for a tweet in which he seemed to validate a news report alleging land seizures and the killing of farmers in the African country, calling him “misinformed.”

On Thursday, Trump said in a tweet that he had ordered his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”

Pretoria hit back shortly afterwards.

“South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception, which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past,” said the South African government in a post on its Twitter account, adding that the country would “speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation.”

Early this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) was moving ahead with plans to alter the constitution in order to allow the expropriation of land without compensation, as white South Africans still owned most of the country’s land nearly a quarter of a century after the collapse of the apartheid system in South Africa.

As the 2019 elections are approaching, Ramaphosa is trying to speed up land reform in order to “undo a grave historical injustice” against the black people, who make up over 80 percent of the whole population, during colonialism and the apartheid era that ended in 1994.

The African leader says the minority white community, which makes up some eight percent of the whole population, “possess 72 percent of farms” compared to “only four percent” in the hands of black people, who make up four-fifths of the population.

“We must transform land or property ownership in our country. That goes without saying. It must be underpinned by development... We must do it in a way that shall enhance stability in our country,” Ramaphosa told legislators on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said in a statement that the US president had been “misinformed” regarding the plan, saying that the South African government would “take up the matter through diplomatic channels.”

Trump’s tweet apparently followed a segment on conservative Fox News television channel that said “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.”

Trump is known both for his television watching and tweeting habits.

Since 2017, 47 farmers have been killed in South Africa, according to the AgriSA, an association of hundreds of agricultural groups across South Africa. Violence against farmers rose to its peak in 1998, when 153 farmers lost their lives. Between 80 and 100 were murdered each year from 2003 to 2011, and about 60 until 2016.

The AgriSA further says that despite the decline in the death toll, there has been an increase in the number of attacks on farms, from 478 in 2016-17 to 561 a year later.

It was not clear if the government was in any way involved in the killings.

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