Media reactions in South Africa to President Donald Trump’s tweet last week about land reform and farm murders were overwhelmingly negative. However, some columnists are beginning to conclude that Trump did the country a favor.
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
William Saunderson-Meyer, a columnist for South Africa’s Business Day, wrote Wednesday that even if Trump had appeared to echo a “white supremacist” talking point, “Trump’s interference could nonetheless help South Africa because it puts the country’s ruling party on notice that its expropriation moves are being watched in Washington.”
He explained (original links):
Trump’s tweet left South Africa’s ANC government incandescent with rage. Zizi Kodwa, head of the presidency in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government, told South African media that Trump was the “modern leader of the racist group Ku Klux Klan and president of AfriForum in America.
“He wants to polarize [South Africa] and reverse the gains we have made to build racial harmony,” Kodwa said.
The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, summoned the U.S. Charge d’Affaires – Trump has yet to appoint an ambassador to South Africa – to convey to Washington that Pretoria is “disappointed” about Washington’s failure to use available diplomatic channels. The Government of South Africa, Sisulu said, wishes to caution against “alarmist, false, inaccurate and misinformed” statements.
The responses by both Kodwa and Sisulu reflect an enormous ANC sensitivity regarding the soon-to-be-implemented Expropriation Without Compensation (EWC) policy, and with it, the controversial, emotive issue of the murder of white farmers, who own disproportionately more land than their black South African counterparts, in a country where white citizens make up only eight percent of the population. Kodwa and Sisulu’s responses show their worried awareness that changing the law to enable the seizure of private property would, in the minds of many Western governments, undermine the ANC’s commitment to constitutional democracy.
Saunderson-Meyer noted that even though statistics on farm murders were shrouded in uncertainty, “according to some studies being a white farmer in South Africa is more dangerous than being a police officer.” And on land reform, “while the ANC government has not yet seized any land, there is no room to be sanguine.” He concluded that Trump may have helped South Africa by reminding the country of the need for inclusive solutions to racial inequality in land ownership: “Trump may have – most likely, unwittingly – actually helped improve race relations, rather than making them worse.”
Earlier this week, another Business Day columnist, Lukanyo Mnyanda, criticized South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for a lack of clarity on the policy of “expropriation without compensation,” saying that Trump’s take on the issue was partly the result of bad messaging by South Africa.
“I went back to read Ramaphosa’s original [July 31] statement, which is no clearer today than it was then,” Mnyanda wrote. “It goes to great lengths to explain why a proper reading of the [South African] constitution allows the state to ‘effect expropriation of land with just and equitable compensation and also expropriation without compensation in the public interest’.
“Then there is a huge leap to telling readers that the intention of the proposed amendment is to ‘promote redress, advance economic development, increase agricultural production and food security’.”
Mnyanda argued: “‘It has become patently clear what our people want’ should as a principle never be used as an argument for a change in our supreme law, which is there to offer protection against the will of both the state and the majority.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.