Deputy President David Mabuza has accused US President Donald Trump of spreading misinformation about South Africa’s land reform policies, but the country’s relations with the US are set to continue as normal.
Mabuza’s comments were in response to a tweet where Trump said he had instructed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures” and the “large scale killings of farmers”.
Rumours of a high rate of racially targeted farm murders in South Africa have been debunked by fact-checking organisation Africa Check.
Speaking at a land summit in Bela-Bela, Limpopo on Thursday, Mabuza dismissed Trump’s comments as a distortion of South Africa’s land reform.
“We would like to discourage those who are using this sensitive and emotive issue of land to divide us as South Africans by distorting our land reform measures to the international community and spreading falsehoods that our ‘white farmers’ are facing the onslaught from their own government. This is far from the truth,” Mabuza said.
The deputy president added that the ANC does not support “land grabs”, explaining that land expropriation measures would be “within the confines of our constitutional framework”.
Trump’s tweet has roused a reaction from senior politicians in South Africa, who have treated the US president’s remark with measured resistance.
In a statement, International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu described the tweet as “unfortunate” and “based on false information” in a statement. Sisulu has instructed officials from her department to meet with the US embassy in Pretoria to gain clarity on the matter.
Though there appears to be resistance from government to Trump’s comments on land reform, relations between South Africa and the US are set to continue as normal according to communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane. The minister was speaking at a briefing in Parliament on Wednesday.
“The tweet has not determined our approach to the United States on our current and future relationships. We do believe that once there are these kinds of concerns, surely, there should be the relevant channels of communication that should actually have been used,” Mokonyane said.
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, meanwhile, called Trump a “pathological liar” in a press conference from his headquarters in Johannesburg on Thursday.
“We are not scared of you and your USA or Western imperialist forces,” Malema said. “We want to send a strong message to the USA authorities, just like we did to the Australian authorities: stay out of South Africa’s domestic affairs.”
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane also responded to the tweet, accusing Trump of “fear mongering”.
The injustices of land dispossession in SA can be addressed by our Constitution in its current form. We must ensure ownership of land 4 all SAn’s. Fear mongering by international leaders adds no value to this important debate
— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) August 23, 2018
The US embassy has yet to comment.