Trump's racial arson on South Africa: How his tweet, inspired by white nationalist lies, will harm an ally - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Monday, August 27, 2018

Trump's racial arson on South Africa: How his tweet, inspired by white nationalist lies, will harm an ally

Donald Trump

It’s hard to know which is worse: watching the President of the United States taking policy notes from rabid talking heads on Fox News, or seeing an unindicted co-conspirator attempting to divert our gaze away from his criminal cabal by seeking to legitimize a dangerous racial myth about another country.

On Thursday, Donald Trump pulled off this daily double — after apparently watching a report by a reckless Tucker Carlson on the troubled question of land reform in South Africa. Trump took to Twitter to declare that “the South African government is now seizing land from white farmers,” and say that he has asked the State Department to study “the large-scale killings of farmers.”

Problem number one: There are no large-scale killings of white farmers in South Africa. Problem number two: The South African government is not seizing land.
Problem number three: Our President is supporting a deliberately provocative “white genocide” lie that is the stuff of right-wing extremists such as Alex Jones, Ann Coulter and Mike Cernovich. He is aligning himself with their South African friends at AfriForum, a predominately Afrikaner extremist group that describes apartheid as a “so-called injustice,” and which has called for violence against academic critics.

Trump has never been to Africa, and this is the first time he’s mentioned the continent in the thousands of tweets that pour from the White House. He certainly hasn’t been to South Africa, where I served as U.S. ambassador under President Obama until 2016. The President has yet to appoint a replacement to our most important economic and security partner in the region.

Instead, he has made his views on developing countries quite clear, with a contempt that seems to reveal an underlying racism.

Trump knows nothing of the effort to undo the poisonous economic legacy of apartheid that has left black people owning just 4% of farms, despite making up 78% of the population. (Whites own 72%, despite making up just 9% of the population.) According to the World Bank, “South Africa’s historical, highly skewed distribution of land and productive assets is a source of inequality and social fragility.”

It’s in the midst of this “social fragility” that Trump has hurled this grenade. Yes, the South African government under Cyril Ramaphosa is talking about accelerating land reform — but in a way that seeks to balance property ownership rights guaranteed by the South African constitution with the need for more equity.

In addition to serving my country in this remarkable republic, I now lead a foundation that’s worked in South Africa for 25 years to support many of the civil society groups that make sure everyone’s voice is heard in this land reform debate. We also support the broader effort to undo the deep structural damage left by the apartheid era, such as an education system that still leaves black children walking long distances to school where they sit in classrooms without desks and decent toilets, let alone computers and the best teachers. In the past, the U.S. embassy in South Africa has supported these efforts.

By blundering into an issue that remains of existential importance for the future of South Africa’s economy, and by lifting up the voices of racist extremists, Trump does great harm to the search for justice in South Africa. He also hurts American interests.

But, with the flies increasingly buzzing around the White House rubbish pile, perhaps this isn’t really about South Africa.

Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations, is former U.S. ambassador to South Africa.

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