Trump's tweet sparks charm offensive

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump

South Africa’s diplomats across the globe have been instructed by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to embark upon a charm offensive following Donald Trump’s misinformed tweet on land expropriation.

The department has called upon extremist group AfriForum to desist from disseminating false information about the country to the rest of the world.

Department’s spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya told City Press all international trips by government would now be used to educate stakeholders about South Africa’s parliamentary process with regard to land redistribution.

“The minister has indicated she will be asking the ambassadors to do more work to make sure the world understands our work.

“A document has been distributed across diplomatic channels outlining our position.

“We are now embarking on a massive charm offensive across the world to make everybody understand our land redistribution programme.

“We will also make sure the message is spread during all international visits.

“The president will be attending Focac [Forum on China-Africa Cooperation] in China, the deputy minister [of international relations and cooperation Luwellyn Landers] will be in Vietnam and there is a trip to Singapore.

“Wherever our diplomats are, they will engage with their departments and governments to engage with stakeholders and businesspeople to ensure we are all on the same page,” Mabaya said.

A diplomatic row was narrowly avoided this week when US President Donald Trump tweeted: “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.”

His tweet came after he watched a show on controversial Fox News in which the issue was discussed.

On Thursday members of the department met officials from the US embassy in Pretoria – the US does not have an ambassador to South Africa – to express great unhappiness over the tweet.

Mabaya said Sisulu had written to the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, inviting him to South Africa to come and assess
the situation and unfolding processes for himself.

It was not immediately clear whether there would be any consequences for AfriForum which has been touring the world, spreading the word of a white genocide in South Africa.

Mabaya said its plan was to derail the land redistribution programme.

“We reserve the harshest words for AfriForum; they are deliberately spreading lies to the world about the parliamentary process in South Africa. They are lying to the world to gain sympathy for their cause and their cause is to frustrate and derail the land redistribution programme.

“They have no other cause except to derail this programme which is under way. This whole thing came about because of their lies; we stay here in South Africa and no farms have been taken from any one without compensation. There is no white genocide; we live here, it is not happening. The government has not targeted any white people and in fact it has invested in crime prevention programmes to address farm murders. Because farms are big, farmers are targets for criminals and we are dealing with that,” Mabaya said.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has been the most unequivocal on the Trump tweet saying that it would not be surprised if sanctions were on the way from the US and that the UK would soon follow suit.

In a press conference on Thursday, EFF leader Julius Malema told South Africans the worst was yet to come in pursuit of the return of the land to black people. He warned that if South Africans were not prepared for the fight for land, they should not vote for the EFF in next year’s general elections.

In a press conference US state department spokesperson Heather Nauert denied sanctions were on the cards for South Africa saying: “You know we would never forecast that. That is hypothetical. I’m not going to comment on it,” she said.

Nauert said the department continued to “encourage a peaceful and transparent public debate about what we consider to be a very important issue and South Africans certainly do as well”.

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