Trump Wants Pompeo to Study ‘Killing of Farmers’ in South AfricaPresident Trump has waded into South Africa’s plans to seize and redistribute vast tracts of land from white farmers, saying in a post on Twitter late Wednesday that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “closely study” the farm expropriations and — without providing evidence — “the large scale killing of farmers.”
“South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers,” he declared.
The tweet prompted Khusela Diko, a spokeswoman for South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to say that Mr. Trump was “misinformed” about what the government describes as land reform, the state broadcaster said.
The government said on Thursday that it would seek clarification from the United States Embassy, according to news reports.
“The presidency has noted Trump’s tweet, which is misinformed, in our view,” the state broadcaster quoted Ms. Diko as saying. “We will take up the matter through diplomatic channels.”
Land reform is a highly divisive issue in South Africa, where white residents, who make up 8 percent of the population, own 72 percent of land, according to official figures.
It is unclear why Mr. Trump weighed in on the country’s plans. But his comments were likely to inflame the issue in a country still struggling with the devastating effects of apartheid and widespread economic inequality decades after Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black president.
Mr. Ramaphosa announced this month that the governing African National Congress would move ahead with a proposal to change the country’s Constitution and allow the expropriation of land without compensation.
A series of hearings on the subject has been held in the provinces in the past couple of months, as Parliament considers changing the law. The issue is tied to national elections next year.
While there have been some land grabs by private groups — not sanctioned by the government — some right-wing groups have been pushing the false narrative that there have been numerous seizures of white-owned farms and killings of white farmers.
In fact, research by one farmers’ organization, published in July, found that the number of killings of farmers was at a 20-year low.
Mr. Trump drew condemnation in January for using a vulgar term to describe Haiti and some African countries, a term that analysts said would please extremist groups in the United States, where the false narrative of “white genocide” has resonated.
Rex W. Tillerson, then secretary of state, sought to mend fences during a five-nation of Africa, promising $533 million in new aid.
Mr. Trump’s tweet on the situation in South Africa may have been inspired by the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who had presented on his nightly talk show what he called an exclusive investigation on South Africa, in which the host discussed land seizures and homicides there.
The plight of farmers has also drawn the attention of Australia’s foreign minister, Peter Dutton, who angered South African officials in March by calling for emergency visas for white farmers. He later retracted his comments, including suggesting that South Africa was not a “civilized country.”