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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to questions about land reform in Parliament on March 14, 2018, in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Jaco Marais/Netwerk24/Gallo Images via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he has directed Secretary of State Pompeo to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures” and the “large scale killing of farmers,” quoting Fox News host Tucker Carlson's claim that the “South African government is now seizing land from white farmers.”

Reality check: Although the widespread killing of white farmers is a favorite trope of AfriForum — an Afrikaner organization that views land reform as a threat to white South Africans — such violence is in fact at a 19-year low, by some measures.

Background: Carlson had interviewed a senior policy analyst at a conservative Washington think tank, who recently wrote an article calling on Trump to “warn South Africa on land expropriations,” comparing the new South African policy with that of Zimbabwe — a common distortion of the debate.

But South Africa is manifestly not Zimbabwe: The Mugabe regime expropriated, without compensation, private land using vigilante violence and ignoring the rule of law. By contrast, South Africa is a constitutional democracy with a record of following the law and with a strong and independent judiciary. The constitution limits what parliament can do and acknowledges the right to private property, while South African media and civil society play a critical role in keeping the government honest. Land reform will be carried out in a transparent political process and the results will likely be challenged in the courts, which have a history of standing up to the government and whose decisions are not ignored.

The bottom line: With respect to the land issue as well as the murder rate, statistics are generally poor. There is not a consensus definition of farmer or farm worker, or how many of them are white, which doubtlessly clouds what statistics there are. That being said, that white South Africans own a majority of land and account for an outsized proportion of economic activity is clear, and there is a general consensus that land reform needs to happen, just not how.

John Campbell is the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

The latest: Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.

Hollywood union reaches deal with studios to avert strike

Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

A Hollywood workers' union reached a tentative deal with studios, networks and streamers that will guarantee better working conditions, meal breaks and increased wages for low-paid workers, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced Saturday night.

Why it matters: The deal, which still needs to be ratified by IATSE members, will avert a nationwide strike by film and television workers that was set to start Monday. It would have been the first strike in the union's 128-year history.

Bill Clinton released from hospital following treatment for non-COVID infection

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was discharged from the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Sunday, nearly a week after he was admitted for a non-COVID-related infection, according to his spokesperson Angel Ureña.

What they're saying: "His fever and white blood cell count are normalized and he will return home to New York to finish his course of antibiotics," wrote Dr. Alpesh Amin, who has been overseeing the team of doctors treating Clinton. "On behalf of everyone at UC Irvine Medical Center, we were honored to have treated him and will continue to monitor his progress."

Worth noting: Clinton had a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream, per CNN.

  • The California-based medical team had been administering IV antibiotics and fluids, and was in constant communication with Clinton's New York team, including his cardiologist, according to the former president's physicians.
  • President Biden spoke by phone with Clinton on Friday to see how he was doing, and the catch-up included a discussion of recent politics.