JOHANNESBURG – South Africa has told the U.S. charge d’affaires of its disappointment over Washington’s “failure” to use diplomatic channels after President Donald Trump angered Pretoria with comments on its land policy.
Trump said in a late-night tweet two days ago that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to study South African “land and farm seizures” and the “killing of farmers”. South Africa accused him of stoking racial divisions and then summoned Washington’s charge d’affaires in South Africa, Jessye Lapenn.
“The U.S. Charge d’Affaires was informed to convey to Washington that Pretoria is disappointed about Washington’s failure to use available diplomatic channels,” the Foreign Affairs department said in a statement on Friday.
Trump’s comment on the social media platform “serves only to polarize debate on this sensitive and crucial matter”, it said.
Trump’s comments inflamed an already high-octane debate over land in South Africa, where land ownership is contentious a generation after the end of apartheid because most is still in the hands of the white minority.
Public hearings are currently underway to gauge support for a policy proposal by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to change the constitution to allow for land to be expropriated without compensation for redistribution to poor blacks.
“The government of South Africa wishes to caution against alarmist, false, inaccurate and misinformed, as well as – in some cases – politically-motivated statements that do not reflect the policies and intentions of the South African Government,” the department said.
Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has taken note of a statement issued by the U.S. Department of State issued after Trump’s tweet, the Foreign Affairs department said.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United State believes that land confiscation without compensation in South Africa would take that country down the wrong path.
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)