/ 23 August 2018

Under pressure Donald Trump falls for fake news about South African whites

Donald Trump’s tweet followed a segment on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show on US TV channel Fox News
Donald Trump’s tweet followed a segment on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show on US TV channel Fox News, on Wednesday, which discussed South Africa. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

US President Donald Trump has been lashed for fuelling racial tensions after he said white South African farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed.

In a statement released on Twitter from the official South African government account, government said, “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds 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.”

Since then, International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has also summoned the US ambassador to explain Trump’s tweets about South Africa.

The US President’s tweets about South Africa follow his insistence earlier on Wednesday that he did nothing wrong after his longtime attorney implicated him in illicit hush payments made before the 2016 election. Experts have warned that Trump is in danger of losing the presidency. His tweets about South Africa are a diversion from his legal troubles.

Afrikaner supremacist group AfriForum is, however, claiming victory.

The group claims it is “making progress” following its visit to the United States earlier this year to garner support for its fight against land expropriation without compensation and so-called ‘white genocide’. 

AfriForum deputy chief executive Ernst Roets responded on social media that the group will be communicating with the US government so they can “visit Washington again in the months to follow”. AfriForum went on a tour of the US in May where the group was also photographed with Trump’s security adviser, John Bolton who was gifted  a copy of Roets’s book Kill the Boer.

But AfriForum is not the only group preaching white genocide to the US alt-right. 

Earlier this year, the Mail & Guardian reported that another right wing group, the Suidlanders also spent months in the US, to bolster international support for white South Africans.

READ MORE: White genocide: How the big lie spread to the US and beyond

In an interview with the SABC Roets said, “I think our lobbying has certainly had an impact because we have spoken with a lot of people who have had contact with President Trump and we have spoken with many think tanks, one of them, for example, the Cato Institute, which has taken a very strong stance shortly before this statement now by President Trump.”

Trump’s tweet followed a segment on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show on US TV channel Fox News, on Wednesday, which discussed South Africa.

Carlson who is a conservative political commentator, described President Cyril Ramaphosa as a racist who has “begun seizing land from his own citizens without compensation because they’re the wrong skin colour.” According to Carlson, this is “literally, the definition of racism.”

“Racism is what our elites say they dislike most. ‘Donald Trump is a racist’, they say, but they’ve paid no attention to this [what’s happening in South Africa] at all. In fact, Ramaphosa is one of Barack Obama’s favourite leaders in the world. In a speech just a few weeks ago, Obama praised him by name for inspiring the country,” Carlson said.

Fox News called the US department of state for comment on the “land seizures” which Carlson says should be getting “worldwide attention because they are immoral”.

In its response, the state department said, “We are aware of these reports and have been following this issue very closely for some time. South Africa is a strong democracy … and South Africans are grappling with the difficult issue of land reform through an open process including public hearings, broad-based consultations and active civil society engagement.

“President Ramaphosa has pledged the land reform process will follow the rule of law and its implementation will not adversely affect growth economic growth, agricultural production, or food security.”

This “unbelievable” statement from the state department, says Carlson, leaves out the part where Ramaphosa is changing the Constitution “to make it possible to steal land from people because they are the wrong skin colour.”

The segment was carried forward through a discussion with Marian Tupy who is a senior policy analyst from think tank Cato Institute is based in Washington DC.

According to the Cato website, Tupy – who is South African – specialises in globalisation and the political economy of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

Tupy said that “in a free and civilised society, we don’t take people’s stuff on the basis of the colour of their skin. It was wrong when it took place under apartheid, it is wrong now. And it would be a tragedy if South Africa repeated the mistakes of the past”.

The discussion moved to how land expropriation led to the downfall of Zimbabwe – a common go-to for AfriForum and people against land expropriation without compensation.

Tupy said the expropriation of land belonging to white farmers led to “horrific violence” and a “total economic collapse” which Zimbabwe has not yet been able to recover from.

In answering the question posed to him on how the US should respond to this “human rights tragedy”, Tupy said two things must be clear.

The first is that the US must come out and denounce the amendment of the Constitution because it targets a specific group of people and because it will be “economically destructive.”

The second is that the South African government must be aware that the US president can expel countries from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, under which the country trades with the US, that “do not respect property rights”. This will lead to further “negative consequences”.

At the end of the segment, Tupy said: “Obama should pick up the phone and tell Ramaphosa that if he wants to continue to enjoy the good press that he has been having, he needs to reverse policy that he is set on and behave in accordance with normal rules.” — Additional reporting by agencies