Donald Trump has tasked his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into planned land seizures and the murders of white farmers taking place in South Africa, following reports on the issue by Fox News.
South African authorities didn't take the news lightly, with President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson and the country's Foreign Minister saying that Trump's order is based on "false information." The president's spokesperson noted that Trump's tweet resembled a "narrow perception which only seeks to divide nation." South African Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane also added that the tweet would not affect relations between the two countries.
Changes to Constitution and Farmers' Reaction
In March, under calls for retribution to the "criminals who stole our land," a motion to change the country's constitution was adopted by the South African parliament. The amendment to the constitution will allow the government to seize land from white farmers, who own more than 12,000 hectares of land, without any compensation.
The planned reform spurred "panic" among South African farmers as many of them have put their land up for sale, according to South African Agricultural Industry Association, although there is zero demand for such offers.
The Origins of the Idea
The idea to expropriate land from white farmers, who own 72% of farms in South Africa, without any compensation and then give it to the black population, is not new to the country, it first emerged in 1994 after the end of the apartheid. Still, the issue only entered the country's political discourse after new president Cyril Ramaphosa took office in February 2018, following the resignation of Jacob Zuma.
Calls to stop the racist policy from activist groups, such as Afriforum and warnings that South Africa might repeat Zimbabwe's grim fate, haven't stopped the government from fulfilling its plan. Ramaphosa assured the public that the new law will allow more "economic inclusion, food security," stimulate economic growth and create new jobs. He also called the situation where nine percent of the population (the white minority) owns over 70% of farm land a "sore that's alive and bleeding."
Attacks on Farmers
A significant portion of the predominantly black South African population has met the news of future agricultural reform with enthusiasm, having supported it at public hearings. But some of them found the law insufficient and started attacking white farmers.
According to a member of South Africa's parliament, Diane Kohler the number of farms attacks has increased in 2018 and these attacks always include violence, torture and often murder. In one recent attack an elderly pair was brutally murdered, as Coleen Engelbrecht was strangled and her husband's throat was reportedly cut by black individuals.
Some white farmers have even started arming themselves and attending special self-defense courses organized by a former Israeli spec-ops soldier in South Africa to learn how to survive and fight back the attackers.