ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) – On Aug. 22, 2018, President Trump gave voice to false information being circulated in other media when he sent a tweet that said, "I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. South African Government is now seizing land from White farmers." These statements are both false and insulting to the citizens of South Africa. They are part of a campaign of misinformation spread by White South African organizations.
Staff at the Cato Institute, Fox News, and other U.S. organizations received special briefings and personal visits this past spring from representatives of AfriForum, a South Africa-based group that advocates on behalf of White South Africans. AfriForum requested that the United States intervene on behalf of White South African landowners who they said fear potential seizure of their farms and political violence.
Mennonite Mission Network and partners in South Africa are deeply troubled by these comments in support of White racist South Africans who expropriated the land under colonial and apartheid laws while Black South Africans, who make up about 80 percent of the population, currently own less than 10 percent of the country's farmland. Land reform by the current South African government has used a "willing buyer – willing seller" model and has had only minimal impact on land ownership and control.
The debate over how to accomplish meaningful land reform in South Africa has been heating up since Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president in February. Some leaders have advocated that the government be given the power to seize land and set the compensation for that land, but seizures have not taken place.
The claim of "large scale killing" of White farmers has been investigated by numerous groups and found to be without basis. There is a high rate of violent crime in South Africa and some White farmers have been victims, but White farmers are not victims at higher rates than the general population.
Oscar Siwali, founder and leader of the Southern African Development and Reconstruction Agency (SADRA), has asked people in the United States to "please be vocal, and make sure Trump's narrative doesn't represent all of America."