Fox News talk show host Tucker Carlson said:
“The South African government is seizing land from white farmers and giving it to black people, without compensation…isn’t that the definition of racism? Taking land from someone because of skin color?”
He also said that record numbers of white farmers were being attacked, and that no one in the mainstream media was talking about it.
Shortly after the show ended President Trump tweeted:
BBC News, CBS News, Associated Press, PolitiFact, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, along with many other news outlets, described Carlson’s segment as false or misleading. The South African government denied the report. The U.S. Embassy fact-checked it.
how it was false:
In response to the president’s tweet, the U.S. Embassy reached out to South African experts including farmers, police, crime researchers, and academics to determine the extent of violence against white farmers. They found “no evidence that murders on farms specifically target white people or are politically motivated,” their cable states.
They also cited a report by AgriSA, a nonprofit industry group that represents 70,000 commercial farmers, that estimated that there were 47 farm murders from 2017 to 2018, fewer than at any time in the past 19 years.
In 2017, across the entire nation of South Africa, there were more than 19,016 murders.
how it was misleading:
The redistribution of land is a huge political issue in South Africa that resulted from decades of apartheid rule and has given rise to the stunning statistic: 95 percent of the country’s wealth is in the hands of 10 percent of the population.
In 1994, after the collapse of apartheid, South Africa’s first democratically elected government, the African National Congress (ANC), committed to redistributing 30% of white-owned agricultural land to black farmers by 2014 to right the wrongs of the past.
Only about eight percent has been transferred using a “willing seller/willing payer strategy.”
The ANC has accused landowners of inflating farm prices, preventing the government from being able to afford the purchases. The government voted to amend the constitution so it could seize land without compensation. It has not, however, done so.
So, while the ability to seize land is now written into the constitution–an alarming development for white land owners–there has been no land seizures to date.
Tucker Carlson’s comments and President Trump’s tweet give us an opportunity to talk about the complexity of the South African situation. Geek out on it here.
And, the redistribution of land in a country that is newly democratic, struggling with identity, where crime is rampant, unemployment is high can’t be easy. Should land ownership remain as it is? How can the government possibly take land from someone who has been farming it for decades? Or is it time to right the wrongs of apartheid? Read the debate here.