Late last night in America, and early morning in Europe and South Africa, President Donald Trump tweeted on the issue of the South African land grab, as well as what he called “the large-scale killing of farmers”. His reaction followed on an interview on Fox News in which Tucker Carlson criticised the State Department’s politically correct views on South Africa as a “well-functioning democracy”.
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
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
Trump’s tweet set off a global reaction with South African media, the South African government, as well as European intellectuals and celebrities, weighing in on the issue. The tweet is being seen as a major breakthrough of the pro-Afrikaans movement in South Africa, as well as alternative media personalities such as Katie Hopkins and Lauren Southern, who have been pushing “plaasmoorde” or farm murders in South Africa, to the top of the agenda, at least on YouTube and conservative websites.
The South African government responded by describing Trump’s tweet as a “narrow perception”, reminding it “of our colonial past”.
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) August 23, 2018
In a subsequent media release, South Africa’s minister of communications, Nomvula Mokonyane, said that the tweet was “unfortunate”, adding:
“The tweet has not determined our approach to the United States on our current and future relationships. We do believe that once there are these kinds of concerns, surely, there should be the relevant channels of communication that should actually have been used.”
Trump’s tweet was sparked off by an interview with Marian Tupy of the Cato Institute by Tucker Carlson on FoxNews. During the interview Carlson voices his astonishment at the politically correct views espoused by the US State Department that does not really see anything to be concerned about in South Africa. Carlson described the State Department’s statement as “honestly, unbelievable” and quoted key sentences from it on his show, including:
“We are aware of these reports and have been following this issue very closely for some time. South Africa is a democracy with strong institutions, including a free press and independent judiciary. South Africans are grappling with the difficult issue of land reform through an open process including public hearings, broad-based consultations, and active civil society engagement.”
This one-sided view regarding South Africa’s imminent land grab by his own State Department is what galvanised Trump into action. A mainstream journalist that FWM spoke to, but who wants to remain anonymous, described the so-called “broad-based consultations” as a “complete farce”, saying: “Initially, before the public hearings detoriorated into bashing white farmers, there were some considered inputs. However, the minister of rural development and land affairs, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, made such contradictory statements at the conference in February this year that I could not quote her without it looking as I am trying to make her look ridiculous. Afterwards, I was shocked by Cyril Ramaphosa’s sudden volte face, stating that he would be starting with land expropriation.”
European intellectuals and alternative-media celebrities welcomed Trump’s tweet. Lauren Southern responded on Twitter by saying:
This is huge https://t.co/WsE1PZkEgo
— Lauren Southern (@Lauren_Southern) August 23, 2018
Lauren Southern played a major role in creating awareness through her YouTube videos, including the documentary “Farmlands”. UK celebrity Katie Hopkins tweeted:
— Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) August 23, 2018
Dutch author and journalist Joost Niemoller asked: “In Trump’s tweet over the painful condition of the white farmers in South Africa, there is nothing which is not true. South African government starts to yell about “colonialism” and the Dutch national radio weeps together. When is the truth going to get into the Dutch media?”
In de Tweet van Trump over de penibele toestand van de blanke boeren in Z-Afrika staat niets wat niet waar is. Regering Z-Afrika begint te gillen over ‘kolonialisme’ en de NOS huilt mee. Wanneer komt de waarheid in de NL media? https://t.co/9woTg0Sk6W
— Joost Niemoller (@JoostNiemoller) August 23, 2018
The issue for President Trump, and for the Cato Institute that alerted US opinion, is whether South Africa could continue to enjoy the benefits of America’s African Growth and Opportunity Act which expressly forbids interfering with the property rights of private persons. Mr. Marian Tupy of the institute referred to Zimbabwe’s disastrous land confiscation policy in the early 2000s and that it is likely to be “repeated” in South Africa.
“As a consequence, South Africa’s northern neighbor’s economy collapsed and the country descended into penury and political violence,” he said.
“This scenario is likely to repeat itself in South Africa. An attack on property rights will result in the destruction of South Africa’s farming community, dramatic reduction in agricultural productivity, and mass unemployment.
“It could also lead to a collapse of the banking sector (which depends on land as collateral for loan-making) and the local currency, hyperinflation, and even bloodshed.”
Tupy is convinced that AGOA gives the US a lot of leverage over South Africa and that the superpower could demand fair treatment for landowners.
“President Trump should warn the South African government that if South Africa’s Constitution is amended to allow for expropriation without compensation, South Africa will be suspended from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as Zimbabwe had been,” he said.
“Moreover, the US Congress should hold hearings on the situation in South Africa, if the government of South Africa continues its destructive economic policies.”