South African farmers react after Trump tweet about alleged land seizures
(23 Aug 2018) Some farmers in South Africa say they fear they could have their land taken from them in the midst of a racially charged national debate over land reform that caught the attention of US President Donald Trump.
Trump tweeted that his administration would be looking into alleged seizures of white-owned farms and the “large scale killing of farmers”.
The South African government said Trump’s tweet was based on “false information” and reflected a “narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.”
Though no land seizures have occurred, the prospect has sent panic through some white farming communities who worry the policy will strip them of their land, cause land prices to plummet or make them the target of potentially violent land seizures.
The proposed land reform is a lawful process that seeks to correct the legacy of decades of white minority rule that stripped blacks of their land.
Nearly a quarter-century after the first democratic elections, black South Africans comprise 80 percent of the population but own just 4 percent of the country’s land, according to the government.
Though the ruling African National Congress has pledged to close that gap, progress has been slow.
In July, President Cyril Ramaphosa said his party would amend the constitution so the state could expropriate land without compensation to speed up the land reform process, but that has not yet happened and no land has been seized.
Leon Sholtz owns a nursery owner and cattle farmer near Broederstroom in South Africa’s North West Province and says he can’t understand why the government is targeting the farming community and not other types of businesses.
The government has also come under the scrutiny of groups such as AfriForum, a group that represents some white South African interests.
The group’s CEO Kallie Kriel says the country has a “huge crisis” with regards to the murdering of farmers.
For years, a small but vocal group of white South Africans have claimed white farmers are the target of violent, racially motivated farm attacks.
Experts say the attacks reflect the country’s generally high crime rate and that there is no evidence connecting them to the victims’ race.
Farm murders have been declining since their peak in 2001, according to research by Agri SA, an umbrella group of South African agricultural associations.
In 2016-17, there were 74 murders during farm attacks, according to Africa Check , compared to 19,000 murders across the country in the same period.
In parliament on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said land expropriation could make more land available for cultivation, and that the process would begin by seizing state-owned land, not privately held land.
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