US President Donald Trump has ordered his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to study the ANC's decision to seize privately owned farmland without compensation and look into what he calls the "large-scale" murder of farmers. In a tweet early on Thursday, Trump said that he had tasked Pompeo to study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriation and the "large-scale killing of farmers". Screengrab: Twitter/ANA/African News Agency -
Durban - The South African government moved swiftly to allay fears by assuring its citizens and the world that land expropriation would not follow what happened in Zimbabwe and Venezuela, and that it would not compromise the economy.

This was its response, within hours, to US President Donald Trump’s tweet (on Thursday) that the land “seizures and expropriations and large scale killing of farmers” would be probed by Washington.

But the ANC was scathing in its response to the tweet, taking a swing at Trump: “He undermines the US by his own conduct and behaviour and Americans have got themselves to blame for electing a person like this,” said ANC executive committee member Zizi Kodwa.

“He is part of the right-wing resurgence throughout the world which is using migration, land and the economy to say people must accept the status quo and not challenge it,” he said.

Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said there was no threat that comments by Trump would result in the collapse of important trade relations between the two countries.

The tweet was based on a report on Fox News on Wednesday night in which anchor Tucker Carlson accused the South African government of “seizing land from his own citizens without compensation because they are the wrong colour”.

He further stated that South Africa had already changed its Constitution so as to allow for the “stealing of property”, and for “racist reasons”.

A guest on Carlson’s show, Marian Tupy of the Cato Institute, said there was a need to denounce expropriation without compensation as it was “immoral and economically destructive”.

Tupy, a Wits University graduate, said the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) under which South Africa traded with the US required the US president to kick out from that treaty any country that did not respect property rights.

In South Africa, Trump’s tweet was met with mixed reactions. EFF leader Julius Malema said: “Before anything good comes the pain. We know the US, Britain and the EU will come for us After the Donald Trump tweet we are more determined to expropriate our land. Only death will stop us, not Trump, not poverty,” he said.

AfriForum, which earlier this year lobbied in the US against the proposed amendment of the Constitution, welcomed Trump’s tweet, saying it was a victory for property owners and everyone.

“Venezuela, with a poverty rate of 90%, and Zimbabwe, with an unemployment rate of 90%, are examples that prove that the disregard of property rights ruins a country’s economy Everyone in SA should therefore hope that the pressure from the US will lead to the ANC reconsidering the disastrous route they want to take SA on,” AfriForum chief executive Kalie Kriel said.

Mokonyane denied South Africa would follow Zimbabwe. “We refuse that South Africa should be compared to any other country. We have a democratic government. When a decision is made it will be made in the interest of South Africa,” she said.

Professor John Stremlau, an international relations expert at Wits University, described Trump’s tweet as “impulsive and uninformed”, saying it was not standard diplomatic practice.

“Trump wanted an issue that will appeal to his base of support in the US, which is declining, by the way. It will appeal to a segment of Trump supporters who are white nationalists just like it will appeal to white nationalists in South Africa.”

Stremlau said the controversy caused by Trump’s tweet was not good for race relations in either the US or South Africa. “However, it is not going to overwhelm the goodwill of democrats in either country.”

Economist Professor Bonke Dumisa said the rand had retreated on Wednesday, with the tweet being one of the reasons. He warned that there was a very strong lobby in the Republican Party that was seen to be anti-African and was pushing for South Africa to be kicked out of Agoa.

“I wish I could say we need to ignore this, but the reality is that lobby is very strong. Having said that, we are a sovereign country and there are certain things that as a sovereign country you must do, but you must make sure that you have applied yourself fully and have considered all the ramifications.”

Dumisa believed there was a well-managed campaign of scaremongering.

The Mercury