I read an article in the Business Report yesterday about the recent visit to SA by Trump representatives to discuss how the land expropriation process may impact property rights. This got me thinking again about the possibility of sanctions being imposed on SA over our land redistribution policies.
We know that despite cries from African leaders for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe, Donald Trump recently went ahead and extended the imposed sanctions, yet again, by another year. Sanctions will remain until the government of Zimbabwe changes its laws to allow protests and media freedom. According to the US government, “The actions and policies of these persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States”. The Zimbabwean government definitely violated human rights in the way that they dealt with the January 2019 fuel hike protests but I’m struggling to understand how this poses an “unusual and extraordinary” threat. The lifting of sanctions imposed on over 100 entities and individuals in Zimbabwe, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling party (Zanu PF) could go a long way in helping the country grow its economy which is currently not doing very well at all.
With that said, I think it is fair to say that the Trump led administration does not always make the most rational decisions and therefore I would not be surprised if they decided that our land redistribution policy poses an “unusual and extraordinary” threat to their foreign policy. Remember the tweet by Trump that read “I have asked the secretary of state to closely study the South African land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killings of farmers. South African government is now seizing land from white farmers”?. Well the secretary of state, John J. Sullivan, defended Trump’s lack of knowledge around this debate by saying that there is a lot of misinformation in the US and that he does not think it has been translated well across the ocean. And despite President Cyril Ramaphosa having said over and over again that redistribution of land will be done in an organized manner that will not impose a threat on food security and the economy at large, he (Sullivan) went on to warn SA that it (land reform) be done in a transparent way so that it does not negatively affect the economy.
I have learned that no matter the given situation, people often see what they want to see. I do not believe that Trump is misinformed, I think he wants to believe that white South Africans are under threat, that they and they alone are victims of horrific crimes and murders and that land redistribution poses threat to property rights. If that is his frame of mind, then the idea of SA facing sanctions is not so far fetched.