President Donald Trump has been accused of playing to his local conservative constituency in the US with his tweet asking his administration to look into farm murders and land grabs in South Africa. Former US ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard said the president was trying to distract attention from the convictions in New York and Virginia respectively of his long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, and former campaign chief Paul Manafort.
“This man has never visited the continent and has no discernible Africa policy,” Gaspard tweeted yesterday. “The president of the US needs political distractions to turn our gaze away from his criminal cabal, so he’s attacking SA with the disproven racial myth of ‘large scale killings of farmers’.”
The SA government hit back at Trump, saying: “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and remind us of our colonial past.
“South Africa will speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation.
“Government supports land restitution and redistribution, which will redress the sins of the past by allowing access to the land in a way that grows the economy, ensures food security and increases agricultural production.”
Political analyst Andre Duvenhage said while the US was not alone in its apparent objection to expropriation of land without compensation, it made sense for Trump as a politician to appear to be playing hardball with SA.
“If you look at his constituency in the US, it is more the conservative, white-dominant middle class and working class who are very sensitive about racial matters and it is definitely advantageous for him to take this stance,” he said.
“The US is not the only state that has these concerns about South Africa. I have been in conversation with people in Britain, the German embassy and the Australian government and the whole situation in South Africa has always been internationalised.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa’s view on the land is seen as drastic and will bring up examples such as the radical reforms in Zimbabwe and Venezuela, which is where they see SA going.”
But the Agricultural Business Chamber of SA (AgBiz) did not foresee doom and gloom in US-SA trade relations.
Agbiz CEO John Purchase said Trump was unlikely to renew SA’s participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act when it expired.
“In any case, we need to establish a more sustainable trade relationship with the US. The US indicated to us before Trump came to power that they want to negotiate a trade agreement.
“And they are moving away from multilateral agreements to bilateral agreements.”