Trump asks his secretary of state to study land expropriation and ‘farm killings’ in South Africa

US president Donald Trump has asked his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to study the seizure and expropriation of land in South Africa, along with the killing of farmers.

Trump posted a note on Twitter, early on Thursday morning, alleging the South African government was “seizing land from white farmers”.

It comes after American think-tank, the Cato Institute, published a warning of the possible effects that expropriating privately-owned farmland may have on the country.

In the post published on Monday (20 August), the institute’s Marian L. Tupy said that eighteen years ago Zimbabwe embraced a similar policy.

“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 added that in the early 1990s, the United States was heavily involved in negotiating the transfer of power from the ruling National Party to the current government, and as such bears some responsibility for ensuring that South Africa’s post-apartheid political settlement, including protection of minorities and private property, endures.

“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.”

South Africa will implement plans to increase access to land for the poor in an orderly fashion and will initially focus on making state property available for housing and farming, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, as reported by Bloomberg, pledging that individual property rights will be strengthened.

“We want the rapid release of publicly owned land,” Ramaphosa told parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday. “I believe we can embark on a very positive process.”

Ramaphosa’s comments come amid a heated national debate over the government’s plans to amend the constitution to allow for land seizures without compensation. While the ruling African National Congress argues that the measure is needed to address skewed ownership patterns dating back to colonial and apartheid rule, some opposition parties say it will undermine property rights and deter investment.

While the ANC first agreed in December that the constitution be changed, the populist Economic Freedom Fighters, which has won support from young voters in impoverished townships by vowing to nationalize everything from land to banks, tabled a motion proposing the amendment in parliament in February.

The constitution already allows land to be expropriated and the planned amendments will provide greater certainty to both those who want and own land, and promote growth, stability and food production, according to Ramaphosa.

Read: South Africa is on the path to becoming another Zimbabwe – and may require US intervention: analyst

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Trump asks his secretary of state to study land expropriation and ‘farm killings’ in South Africa