South African farmers have demanded Donald Trump "leave us the hell alone" after the U.S. president criticised the country's land reform plans, accusing him of trying to deflect attention from his own scandals.
"The people were furious about Trump — and I think they still are," said Preline Swart, a 37-year-old black woman who farms grain and cattle with her husband east of Cape Town. "He's an outsider and he knows nothing about farming," she said on the sidelines of a summit of farmers, officials and industry players in Bela Bela, 160 kilometers northeast of Johannesburg.
Trump's Wednesday tweet, posted on the eve of the "Land Solution" gathering, touched on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa — one of the most sensitive issues in the country's post-apartheid history.
"I have asked Secretary of State... (Mike) Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers," tweeted Trump to his 54 million followers.
His tweet apparently followed a segment on conservative Fox News about Pretoria's plan to change the constitution to speed up expropriation of land in a bid to redress racial imbalances in land ownership.
"'South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers'," said Trump's post, which tagged the show's host, Tucker Carlson, as well as the channel. "I think Donald Trump must really take his long hair... and leave our people the hell alone," added Swart.
According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who himself farms cattle on a 5,100-hectare ranch, the white community that makes up eight percent of the population "possess 72 percent of farms." In contrast, "only four percent" of farms are in the hands of black people who make up four-fifths of the population.
"I'm worried about the politicians and the politics in our country if they don't get (land reform) right," said Andre Smith, 49, who grows pecans and other crops on 100 hectares in the Northern Cape province. "We don't love Donald Trump and his outspokenness."
South Africa's government reacted to the tweet with officials telling their American counterparts Trump's comments were "alarmist, false, inaccurate and misinformed."
"He doesn't understand the South Africa situation. We have to inform him, we have to invite him to visit us," added Smith, overlooking the conference venue's car park, full of the white Toyota pickup trucks beloved of South African farmers.
"Donald Trump was hot-headed — and not for the first time!," laughed Whiskey Kgabo, a farmer of more than 30 years who grows mangoes on his rented 888-hectare plot in northeastern Limpopo province.