International News

US warns South Africa over land seizures

Most of the country's farms and agricultural holdings are owned by white farmers.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned that the South African government’s plan to expropriate land without compensation will be “disastrous” for the economy and the nation.

Mike Pompeo is America’s top diplomat

Mr Pompeo made the comments in Ethiopia, the final leg of his visit to Africa, which also saw him going to Angola and Senegal.

“South Africa is debating an amendment to permit the expropriation of private property without compensation. That would be disastrous for that economy, and most importantly for the South African people,” he was quoted by Bloomberg news agency as saying.

African economies needed “strong rule of law, respect for property rights [and] regulation that encourages investment”, he added.

Land is a deeply emotional issue in South Africa

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to press ahead with amending the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation in order to tackle the “historical injustice” caused by the white-minority rule.

Most of the country’s farms and agricultural holdings are owned by white farmers – 72% according to government statistics. White people make up 9% of the population.

The government’s plan has been fiercely resisted by the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, and mainly white lobby groups.

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In 2018, US President Donald Trump said he had asked Mr Pompeo “to closely study the land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large-scale killing of farmers”.

The South African government said Mr Trump was “misinformed”, and it would take up the matter through diplomatic channels.

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