President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday evening that his administration would begin studying the murder and expropriation of white farmers in South Africa.
As Breitbart News reported earlier this week, the South African government had begun seizing the first white-owned farms under a new policy that rejects the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller” in favor of expropriation without compensation. The goal is to accelerate land reform, which has proceeded at a slow pace since the end of apartheid in 1994.
“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,” Trump tweeted. He added, “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers” — an apparent reference to a report by Tucker Carlson on Fox News.
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
The State Department had provided a statement to Fox News: “We are aware of these reports, and have been following this issue very closely for some time. South Africa is a strong democracy with resilient institutions, including a free press and an 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. President [Cyril] Ramaphosa has pledged that the land reform process will follow the rule of law, and its implementation will not adversely affect economic growth, agricultural production, or food security.”
Carlson took issue with the statement’s “unbelievable” reluctance to criticize South Africa’s policies on land reform and rural crime.
Land reform is a potent issue in South Africa because of the fact that earlier governments had seized land that was owned by black South Africans and reserved it for white South Africans. Black South Africans were confined to small “homelands” where the land barely sustained subsistence agriculture.
Today, few black South Africans wish to farm. Most seek jobs, and hope to own property, in urban areas. But the issue remains a potent symbolic one, and a cause around which populists and African nationalists continue to rally.
In addition, white farmers have been frequent targets of violent crime over the past several decades. Though statistics are often controversial, there have been thousands of farm attacks, and hundreds of farm murders, since the early 1990s. South Africa is troubled by violent crime in general, but farmers suspect that they are being deliberately singled out for political reasons.
Newly-installed South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, a former businessman, was seen as a reformer who would dissuade the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party from emulating the catastrophic land reform policies of Zimbabwe to the north.
But under increasing pressure from a new radical opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Ramaphosa has endorsed a new constitutional amendment that would make expropriation without compensation easier.
That, in turn, is scaring investors away from a country whose economy is already struggling, and which is losing skilled citizens — black and white — to emigration.
South Africans of all races are also increasingly worried that if white farmers are targeted, nobody’s property will be safe.
“Expropriation of land without compensation means everyone who owns property or aspires to do so is equally vulnerable,” wrote Temba A. Nolutshungu, director of South Africa’s Free Market Foundation, in a letter published this week in South Africa’s daily Business Day newspaper. “While white-owned land is being targeted for expropriation, black-owned land would not be exempted.”
Rhoda Kadalie, a former member of South Africa’s Human Rights Commission under the late President Nelson Mandela, told Breitbart News: “The ANC has destroyed every state institution in South Africa, including mining and manufacturing, and now it goes for the sector that creates the most jobs for the poor as well as ensure food security. Land expropriation without compensation is creating wealth by stealth for the elite. Even the ANC’s land restitution program has failed by its own admission.”
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.