JOHANNESBURG – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has invoked Robert Mugabe’s famous line, “Blair keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe” as he hit back at US President Donald Trump’s comments on the country’s land reforms.
In a tweet on August 23 – apparently after watching a report on the right wing Fox News channel – Trump took to Twitter, stating: “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.”
Ramaphosa issued a strong rebuke of the US leader on Sunday, saying South Africa was capable of addressing skewed land ownership that is in favour of descendants of white settlers without the need for outside interference.
“I don’t know what Donald Trump has to do with South African land because he has never been here. He must keep his America, and we will keep our South Africa,” Ramaphosa said, echoing Mugabe’s famous 2002 speech at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg at the height of Zimbabwe’s land reforms which were opposed by Britain, then led by Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Ramaphosa, speakingat Masila in Limpopo Province, continued: “South Africa is our land, South Africa belongs to all the people who live here, in South Africa, it does not belong to Donald Trump, he can keep his America.
“When I meet him I will tell him, I will say you Donald Trump you are even worse because when your forebears came to America, they found the natives, the indigenous Americans and they wiped them out, they killed nearly all of them.
“We are living as a nation, black and white. We will find solutions for our land question, so Donald Trump must leave us alone.”
Ramaphosa said when South Africans were fighting the racist apartheid regime, Trump was not notable for any advocacy in support of their cause. Just as it triumphed over apartheid, South Africa was capable of finding a fair and just solution to the emotive land issue, he insisted.
“When we were fighting oppression, he was not here. He did not fight side by side with us and we were able on our own – yes with support of progressive forces in the world – to resolve the apartheid question. As far as I recall, Trump was not around the negotiating table when we negotiated the end of apartheid,” he blasted.
“So, stick around there in the White House, we will do our business here and will find solutions for our problems. Stay out of our issues and we will not get involved in your own issues in America. You have your own problems, leave us alone.”
When Ramaphosa assumed the South African presidency in February 2018, he said at his inauguration that he planned to speed up the transfer of land to the still-largely-dispossessed black population in order to ensure food production and security.
The land reform debate in Parliament was launched by the Economic Freedom Fighters party, whose leader, Julius Malema, said February 27 “it was time for justice” on the land issue.
“We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land,” Malema said at the time.
The motion passed on February 27 by a large majority, and Parliament created a committee to review the country’s constitution and report back by August 30 whether or not uncompensated expropriation was legal under current South African law.
Even though South Africa passed a law allowing land expropriation in 2016, Ramaphosa said that he believes that the constitution should be “more explicit” on the issue.
On Tuesday, Ramaphosa won the support of visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May.
May, speaking in Cape Town at the start of her visit to South Africa – the first by a British Prime Minister since 2011, said: “The UK has for some time now supported land reform that is legal and transparent and generated through a democratic process. I discussed it with President Ramaphosa during his visit to Britain earlier this year and will discuss it with him again later today.
“I welcome the comments that President Ramaphosa has already made, bearing in mind the economic and social aspects of it. I think he’s made some comments that it won’t be a smash and grab approach. I think there’s an opportunity to unlock investment.”