President Donald Trump has fallen out with South Africa after taking to Twitter to criticise the government’s land reforms, prompting a sharp rebuke from Pretoria.
Posting on Twitter early Thursday morning, Trump said he had instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizure and large scale killing of farmers.”
Trump’s comment on South Africa is the first time he has used the word “Africa” on the social media platform since becoming president.
The South African government was quick to respond Thursday. “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past,” the government said.
In a second tweet also directed at Trump, Pretoria said it would “speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation.”
Later Thursday, South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said it was regrettable that Trump’s tweet was based on false information.
Sisulu said she had instructed officials in her department to meet with the US embassy in Pretoria to seek clarification on the matter.
Land reforms in South Africa are high on the government’s agenda, however, and have stirred controversy.
At the start of August, President Ramaphosa announced plans by the ruling African National Congress to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation (EWC).
The government sees these changes as a way to boost the country’s agricultural sector and economy. Opponents say EWC is a threat to food security and the economy.
The bulk of South Africa’s land is owned by its minority white population, a vestige of its colonial past, thus they are likely to be most affected by the changes.