US President Donald Trump has expressed concern over the fate of white farmers in South Africa, where the extremely controversial land redistribution reform might leave owners without their properties or any compensation.
“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,’” Trump tweeted.
The South African government this week has reportedly moved to seize two farms from owners who refused to accept the government-set compensation, triggering panic among landlords and investors.
Local media reported the properties in the northern province of Limpopo became the first to be seized as the government pushes to amend the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. While the government valued the land at 200 million rand ($18.7 million), Akkerland Boerdery, the hunting company that operates the farms, said they are being offered just 20 million rand ($1.87 million), which they have refused to accept.
This week’s seizures reportedly mark the first instance in which the government is expropriating land “in the public interest” without compensating owners with its full market price.
South African state-owned Land Bank has warned of the massive economic burden for the economy, that may even trigger a default, if the farming sector and agri-business loses confidence and stops investing and paying off debts. If reforms to the constitution are introduced and the bank’s rights as a creditor are not protected, it may cost the economy 41 billion rand ($2.8 billion) in a bailout, the institution said.
The recently elected president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who repeatedly pledged to act more aggressively in redistributing white-owned land to the long-oppressed black population, disregarding a “willing seller, willing buyer” policy that was adopted after apartheid ended in 1994. Statistics show that white owners still control some 72 percent of farmland in South Africa, despite constituting only 9 percent of the population.
While Trump bemoaned the “large-scale killing of farmers,” homicide rates in South Africa are at 20-year low, with 47 farmers killed in 2017-18, according to a recent research by one of the country’s biggest farmers’ organizations AgriSA. A peak in attacks was registered in 2001-2002, when 140 murders took place. Murder statistics, however, diverge, with civil rights group AfriForum saying 84 were killed in 2017 alone.