Mon, Aug 27, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Farmers in South Africa irate over Trump’s tweet

AFP, BELA BELA, South Africa

Illegal shacks erected during a land invasion of property owned by Louiesenhof Wine farm in Stellenbosch, South Africa, are pictured on Aug. 8.

Photo: EPA-EFE

South African farmers have demanded US President Donald Trump “leave us the hell alone” after he criticized the country’s land reform plans, accusing him of trying to deflect attention from his own scandals.

“The people were furious about Trump — and I think they still are,” said Preline Swart, a 37-year-old black woman who farms grain and cattle with her husband east of Cape Town.

“He’s an outsider and he knows nothing about farming,” she said on the sidelines of a summit of farmers, officials and industry players in Bela Bela.

Trump’s Wednesday tweet, posted on the eve of the “Land Solution” gathering, touched on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa — one of the most sensitive issues in the country’s post-apartheid history.

“I have asked Secretary of State... [Mike] Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers,” Trump tweeted to his 54 million followers.

His tweet apparently followed a segment on conservative Fox News about Pretoria’s plan to change the constitution to speed up expropriation of land without compensation to redress racial imbalances in land ownership.

“‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers,’” said Trump’s post, which tagged the show’s host, Tucker Carlson, as well as the channel.

“I think Donald Trump must really take his long hair... and leave our people the hell alone,” Swart said.

While many of the farmers at Thursday and Friday’s summit rejected Trump’s intervention, many are unsure what the government’s plan to expropriate land to fix historical injustices will mean.

“The deputy president [David Mabuza] assured farmers government isn’t going to do anything reckless,” said conference speaker Tshilidzi Matshidzula, 30, a dairy farmer with 1,000 cattle on his ranch in the Eastern Cape Province.

“[But] as a farmer, although I’m black, expropriation is a serious concern. The sooner we get formal clarity on how it will be handled, the better,” he said.

According to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who himself farms cattle on a 5,100 hectare ranch, the white community that makes up 8 percent of the population “possess 72 percent of farms,” while “only 4 percent” of farms are in the hands of black people who make up four-fifths of the population.

The stark disparity stems from purchases and seizures during the colonial era that were then enshrined in law during apartheid.

“I’m worried about the politicians and the politics in our country if they don’t get [land reform] right,” said Andre Smith, 49, who grows pecans and other crops on 100 hectares in the Northern Cape Province. “We don’t love Donald Trump and his outspokenness.”

South Africa’s government reacted angrily to the tweet with officials telling their US counterparts Trump’s comments were “alarmist, false, inaccurate and misinformed.”

“He doesn’t understand the South Africa situation. We have to inform him, we have to invite him to visit us,” Smith said.

“Donald Trump was hot-headed — and not for the first time,” laughed Whiskey Kgabo, a farmer of more than 30 years who grows mangoes on his rented 888 hectare plot in Limpopo Province.

“I don’t have anything against Donald Trump ... but he should first check that this is the position,” Kgabo said.

Swart said that Trump “just wants something new to talk about.”

This story has been viewed 2548 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top