Trump and South Africa
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
There are certain things about the Trump administration that never cease to amaze me. It is not just that they get their facts wrong. It is not just that they lie. What is striking is that when they get caught in a lie they either ignore the facts or they simply repeat the lie.
So, it has been in connection with Trump’s allegations that there are waves of attacks against white farmers in South Africa and that the ANC-led government of South Africa is preparing to seize the land.
Let’s stop for a moment and discuss the question of “seizure.” Beginning with the Dutch colonization of South Africa starting in the 17th century and furthered by the English introduction in the 18th century, there was the systematic seizure of land from the indigenous population. That’s why they call it colonization. A settler population planted itself in present-day South Africa and established, over time, European dominance. The indigenous—black—population had no rights that the Europeans were bound to respect.
What we know of as “apartheid,” or the systematic classification of different peoples according to alleged “racial” categories, and the all-round suppression of the black majority, was not formalized until 1948 when the party of the Afrikaners (descendants of the Dutch colonists) took power. A new wave of land seizures and population displacements took place almost immediately.
The “land question,” then, has been one of the most hotly debated issues in South Africa. How should the ANC-led government repair the damage done by colonialism and apartheid? What about the black farmers who were displaced?
The initial approach was that of willing seller/willing buyer, much along the lines of what was initially attempted in Zimbabwe. Yet this experiment, undertaken since the ANC won power in 1994, has failed as a method of dealing with the “land question” and the demand for what is, in effect, reparations. There have been growing mass demands for land redistribution. It is this that the current ANC government is debating. Should the laws be changed in order to bring about land redistribution? Has the time of patience been exhausted?
Right-wing whites in South Africa, and their allies in the USA, have regularly warned of a planned genocide against whites in South Africa. This has been the bugaboo in virtually every colony that the Europeans established and every settler state that has emerged. The colonized, according to this narrative, are planning revenge.
Into this stepped Trump. As I have repeatedly argued, Trump knows little about the world. This is regularly on display. But what he does know is how to excite his base. Playing to racial fears has been an effective tool. His Tweet about South Africa and the alleged killings of white farmers (note: there have been no mass killings of white farmers) are not mainly about South Africa. They are a warning to white people in the USA that if they are not careful, the barbarian masses of black, brown, yellow and indigenous peoples will submerge them, driving them to extinction.
As is always clear when it comes to Trump, the facts of the situation are irrelevant. What’s important is the racist narrative.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.