South Africa to Trump: 'Stay out'. But at what cost?

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Given the racially-charged atmosphere of the debate, an intervention by Donald Trump was possibly the last thing South Africa needed.

"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", Trump tweeted. "It seems that UK Prime Minister Theresa May could not convince the market otherwise with her endorsement of President [Cyril] Ramaphosa's stance on legal and transparent land reform falling on deaf ears". "And he must keep his America, we will keep our South Africa", Ramaphosa said to cheers at a conference. Short term strength in the rand was perhaps from the perception that the ANC was recanting its decision to amend the constitution for land expropriation "without compensation".

In 2015, the ANC proposed a constitutional amendment allowing the government to seize and redistribute land without any compensation to its owners.

However, it's not the land reform (currently on hold pending further review) which is seen as a real threat to some farmers. He concluded that Trump may have helped South Africa by reminding the country of the need for inclusive solutions to racial inequality in land ownership: "Trump may have - most likely, unwittingly - actually helped improve race relations, rather than making them worse".

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Although South Africa has grappled with many challenges over the past decade, including state graft, unemployment of more than 27 percent and economic stagnation, it still prides itself as Africa's powerhouse, scoffing at suggestions it could go the way of its neighbour Zimbabwe, where erratic land reforms left the economy in ruins.

Parliament's Public Works Committee officially withdrew the Expropriation Bill on Wednesday pending the conclusion of a parliamentary process to review the merits of changing the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation.

"Mnyanda argued: "'It has become patently clear what our people want' should as a principle never be used as an argument for a change in our supreme law, which is there to offer protection against the will of both the state and the majority".

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