South Africa’s top diplomat has dismissed US President Donald Trump’s remarks about white farmers in her country’s land reform process, saying it reflects “right-wing ideology.”
Trump drew ire in the South African government last Wednesday when he alleged on Twitter that there was “large scale killing” of farmers, as the country tries to reverse the uneven distribution of land that favored white farmers over black South Africans during apartheid. He also tweeted that he was ordering Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo to study the country’s policy.
Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu dismissed Trump’s remarks as “unfortunate,” saying that they were resonating with other people with the same ideology.
“I think it is a right-wing ideology, and it is very unfortunate. We’ve used every opportunity, coming through our communications, to explain to the world what it is that we’re doing. It is the most reasonable way to deal with a legacy such as we have. And we are almost amazed at how it could be misinterpreted and acceptable in certain quarters,” she said Monday in an interview with CNN in Pretoria.
“Our job is to make sure we can redistribute land, that those people whose was taken away from them, forcefully and illegally by previous governments, should be returned to them because we would like as much productivity as we can on the land.”
She added that the government had called on the US Chargé D’affaires for an explanation of the tweet, and criticized Trump for using Twitter as a platform to express his concerns instead of going through Pompeo.
Trump’s tweet last week appeared to be in response to a report on Fox News that alleged that the South African government was “seizing land from white farmers.”
The South African government responded by saying Trump’s remarks were “hysterical” and “based on false information.”
“South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past,” the government tweeted. “South Africa will speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
On Wednesday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told parliament that expropriations of land were one part of a broader redistribution and agricultural development program that would only be introduced following public and parliamentary consultation.
“Acceleration of land redistribution is necessary not only to redress a grave historical injustice, but also to bring more producers into the agricultural sector and to make more land available for cultivation,” he said.
In an article published in the UK’s Financial Times early Thursday, Ramaphosa described access to land as one of the areas where “severe inequality between black and white South Africans” is “most devastating.”
South Africa has tried to reform its land policy since the end of apartheid, but white farmers still own the majority of land in the country.
CNN’s Angela Dewan wrote from London.