South Africa slams Trump over land 'seizures' tweet

Farmers, politicians and key role players in the agriculture sector listen to South Africa Deputy President David Mabuza speak as they attend AGRISA, a South African agricultural industry association, at a conference titled "The Land Solution" on the Zwartkloof Private Game Reserve in Bela Bela on August 23, 2018. - South Africa has accused US President Donald Trump of fuelling racial tensions after he said farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed. AFP

South Africa accused US President Donald Trump of fuelling racial tensions on Thursday after he said farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed.

Trump's tweet touched on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa -- one of the most sensitive issues in the country's post-apartheid history.

"South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past," said the government on an official Twitter account.

The foreign ministry said in a statement it would meet officials at the US embassy to challenge the "unfortunate comments," which were "based on false information".

Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu would also speak directly with her American opposite number, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it added.

Trump wrote overnight: "I have asked Secretary of State... Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large-scale killing of farmers."

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.

"'South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers'," said Trump's post, which tagged the show's host, Tucker Carlson, as well as the channel.

In the clip, Carlson painted an apocalyptic picture of the situation accompanied by on-screen graphics warning of the "threat of violence and economic collapse".

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces elections in 2019, has claimed expropriating farms without compensating their owners would "undo a grave historical injustice" against the black majority during colonialism and the apartheid era. 

Even though apartheid ended in 1994, the white community that makes up 8% of the population "possess 72% of farms" compared to "only four4%" in the hands of black people who make up four-fifths of the population, Ramaphosa said.

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South Africa slams Trump over land 'seizures' tweet

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