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SA Farmers 'Furious' Over Trump Land Tweet

28 August 2018

SOUTH AFRICA - Farmers in the country have demanded Donald Trump "leave us the hell alone" after the US president criticized the country's land reform plans, accusing him of trying to deflect attention from his own scandals.

"The people were furious about Trump - and I think they still are," said 37-year-old Preline Swart who farms grain and cattle with her husband east of Cape Town.

"He's an outsider and he knows nothing about farming," she said on the sidelines of a summit of farmers, officials and industry players in Bela Bela, 160 kilometers northeast of Johannesburg.

President Trump's Wednesday tweet, posted on the eve of the "Land Solution" gathering, touched on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa - one of the most sensitive issues in the country's post-apartheid history.

"I have asked Secretary of State ... (Mike) Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers," tweeted Trump to his 54 million followers.

"We don't love Donald Trump and his outspokenness."
Andre Smith, farmer from Northern Cape province

His tweet apparently followed a segment on conservative Fox News about Pretoria's plan to change the constitution to speed up expropriation of land without compensation to redress racial imbalances in land ownership.

While many of the farmers at Thursday and Friday's land summit rejected President Trump's intervention, many are unsure what the government's plan to expropriate land to fix historical injustices will mean for them.

"The deputy president assured farmers government isn't going to do anything reckless," said conference speaker Tshilidzi Matshidzula, 30, a dairy farmer with 1,000 cattle on his ranch in the country's Eastern Cape province.

"(But) as a farmer, although I'm black, expropriation is a serious concern. The sooner we get formal clarity on how it will be handled, the better."

As he spoke, other black delegates congratulated Matshidzula for the speech he had just given on how to resolve land inequality.

According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who himself farms cattle on a 5,100-hectare ranch, the white community that makes up 8 per cent of the population "possess 72 per cent of farms".

In contrast, "only four per cent" of farms are in the hands of black people who make up four-fifths of the population.

The stark disparity stems from purchases and seizures during the colonial era that were then enshrined in law during apartheid.

"I'm worried about the politicians and the politics in our country if they don't get (land reform) right," said Andre Smith, 49, who grows pecans and other crops on 100 hectares in the Northern Cape province.

"We don't love Donald Trump and his outspokenness."

TheCattleSite News Desk

Top image via Shutterstock


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