The United States president Donald Trump is [in]famous for his controversial tweets, which often allow people to see through his political identity and what he stands for. He recently tweeted a tweet about studying the issue of white farmer killings in South Africa, as the South African government is working towards effecting land reform.
His tweet on South African land reform has drawn a wide array of mixed reactions, but it particularly drew the ire of the South African government. Mr. Trump makes it seem as if there is a genocide in South Africa where white farmers are being obliterated.
"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," he tweeted.
Trump's tweet was premised on a report carried by Fox News reporter Tucker Carlson in which he attacked South Africa for its plans to redistribute land from white to black citizens and urged the United States to take more action. Land is a contentious issue in South Africa, and the African National Congress (ANC) led government has been on an effort to make changes to the Constitution in order to facilitate the expropriation of land without compensation.
South Africa's government strongly denounced Donald Trump's tweet. "South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past," it said. It added that "South Africa will speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation." Lindiwe Sisulu, South Africa's Foreign Minister, said she instructed her department to seek clarification from the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria on Mr. Trump’s "unfortunate comments" based on "false information."
While Trump's tweet insinuates a grave situation in South Africa as regards killings on white farmers, the number of people killed on farms has greatly slumped in the past 20 years, reaching a low of 47 people in 2017/18, of around 19,000 people killed in violent crimes across the country, although the figures don't record race.
In South Africa, white South Africans, who make up 8% of the country's population, own 73% of the agricultural land. In the post-apartheid era, these land imbalances have not been resolved and millions of black South Africans are still disadvantaged. During the apartheid era, black South Africans were not allowed to own property, being put in Homelands, meaning almost all of the land went into the hands of the whites. Efforts to redress the imbalances in the post-apartheid era have not yielded the desired results, with the "willing seller, willing buyer" method of agrarian reforms not delivering the needed impact.
South Africa's president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to handle the land reform in a way that benefits the blacks, while not eroding away property rights and also not eroding investor confidence. Right-wing groups have been accused of portraying a wrong image about the country, making it look as if there is a genocide on white farmers. Killing is not okay. Murder is not the way. But the way Trump is making it look is just off the mark.
"Running overseas and saying the ANC is out for land grabs. There is no such thing," Ramaphosa told lawmakers. "The ANC wants to ensure that there is land reform that is going to lead to the growth of our economy and agricultural growth and if we embrace this approach we are going to restore the dignity of our people."
What does this tell us about Trump?
This whole thing tells us something about Donald Trump. On this planet, he is only concerned about one group of people. He is only concerned about white people.
It is part of his identity politics which has been a distinct feature of his presidency. As long as white people are "under threat" he has to act. Again, this is not to say white farmer killings are good.
It has been apparent beyond any reasonable doubt that Donald Trump's racist undertones, and overtones, are only portrayed so as to advance his siding with white people. His condescending attitude on people of other races other than white people is there for everyone to see.
The delicate nature of the land reform issue
Land owners in South Africa have the right to challenge government action to seize their property in a court of law. How will the ANC handle this? How will they stave off the [false] narrative that there is a genocide of white farmers in the country?
What about the precious investor confidence that the big players are worried about?
There is a lot at stake, really. The ANC will have to tread with the utmost caution.
And Trump, well, he must let the South Africans be.
The United States and South Africa have a good relationship, and this must not strain the good that is prevailing.
Header image credit: CNN