US President Donald Trump intends to nominate luxury handbag designer Lana Marks as the new ambassador to South Africa. Picture: Jacquelyn Martin/AP
US President Donald Trump intends to nominate luxury handbag designer Lana Marks as the new ambassador to South Africa. Picture: Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Luxury handbag designer Lana Marks has been nominated as the new US ambassador to South Africa.
Luxury handbag designer Lana Marks has been nominated as the new US ambassador to South Africa.

Johannesburg - US President Donald Trump intends to nominate luxury handbag designer Lana Marks as the new ambassador to South Africa, the White House said, almost two years after the last ambassador left under Barack Obama.

The nomination comes at a time of frayed relations between the two countries after a tweet in August in which Trump asked his secretary of state to study South African "land and farm seizures".

South Africa accused Trump of stoking racial divisions with the comments, which it called "misinformed".

African politicians also labelled Trump a racist in January after he was reported to have described some immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from "shithole" countries.

"President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate ... Lana J. Marks of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to South Africa," the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.

The United States has not had an ambassador in South Africa since Patrick Gaspard vacated his post in December 2016, with its mission being overseen by a chargé d'affaires.

Incoming Ambassador Marks was born in South Africa and attended Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand. She speaks Afrikaans and Xhosa, the White House said. She is now based in Florida.

CNN reported on Thursday that Marks, is a member of Trump's exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a source familiar with the club.

Marks says on her Twitter page that she has "a background in SA political, economic, social and media landscape".

Lived in S Africa a third of my life; studied at Wits Univ; spoke fluent Xhosa; passed the Hoërtaalbond Eksamen in Afrikaans; background in SA political, economic, social & media landscape; businesswoman for 30 years; mom for 37 years; wife for 42 years; ninja, forever!!

— LANA MARKS (@LanaMarks) October 21, 2018

Another tweet says she has served on Harvard's Kennedy School of Government Women's Leadership Board, and has represented her country in Helsinki, at the Women's Business Leadership Initiative.

The website for her premium handbag firm, Lana Marks, offers handbags selling for as much as $20 000 and says they have become favourites for celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Kate Winslet and Madonna.

Her biography did not mention any previous diplomatic postings.