PRETORIA– Officials from South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) and the United States Embassy in Pretoria met here Thursday to address the tweet from US President Donald Trump on land expropriation without compensation and crime in South Africa.

DIRCO Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the US President’s comment was “unfortunate” and it was “regrettable” that the tweet was based on false information. It was on this basis that the Minister had instructed the department to meet the US Embassy in Pretoria to seek clarification on the matter.

Minister Sisulu will also communicate with [US] Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on the matter through diplomatic channels, department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said in a statement.

South Africa, Sisulu said, has good political, economic and trade relations with the US and that diplomatic channels remain open to provide clarity on issues of mutual interest.

Her stance was reiterated by Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane during a post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday.

Mokonyane said President Cyril Ramaphosa had appointed an Inter-Ministerial Committee to co-ordinate and implement measures to accelerate the redistribution of land, extension of security of tenure, provision of agricultural support and the redress of spatial inequality, within a broad and comprehensive land redistribution and agricultural development programme.

Meanwhile, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) correspondent in the US Sherwin Bryce-Pease reports that Trump asked the Secretary of State to pay close attention to land and farm seizures in South Africa in addition to expropriations without compensation and large-scale killing of farmers.

Former US Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard says President Donald Trump needs political distractions to turn attention away from what Gaspard says is Trump’s criminal cabal.

Gaspard made the comments in a tweeted response to Trump’s earlier twitter remarks that he’d asked Pompeo to closely study — in his words — South Africa’s land and farm seizures, expropriations and large scale killing of farmers.

Gaspard, an Obama era appointee and now President of the Open Society Foundations, took to twitter to call out President Trump.

The former US ambassador says of the US President that “he’s never visited the continent and has no discernible Africa policy”.

Trump’s late night tweet came after he watched a segment on the conservative Fox News channel that accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of being a racist, that he’d already changed the country’s Constitution to make it possible to steal land from people, adding he’d begun seizing land from citizens based on their skin colour while urging the Trump Administration to respond to what it called a human rights tragedy unfolding in South Africa.

President Trump tweeted immediately after the show.

Meanwhile, Deputy President David Mabuza will chair the Inter-Ministerial Committee on land reform, said Mokonyane. We view the issues on land as very important matters related to the future of this country for economic growth, transformation, reconciliation and for the restoration of the dignity of all South Africans, Mokonyane said.

She said no nation would want the status quo to remain if it were to improve social imbalances amongst its people. As articulated by President [Cyril Ramaphosa] yesterday during the [Parliamentary Question and Answer session], the pace [with which were are moving to make] sure that we deal with issues of land do require a change of gear,” Mokonyane added.

It is on this basis that we do not believe that the agreements and treaties that we are involved in, such as AGOA [African Growth and Opportunity Act], are under threat.

The Minister said instruments such as AGOA were an opportunity to boost small-scale and black farmers, who face challenges with access to markets and finance.

Concerted efforts would continue to be made to provide support to farmers so that they can continue to play their role in growing the agriculture sector and maintaining food security, the Minister said.

Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee has recently concluded hearings in all provinces into the possible review of Section 25 of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

Cabinet thanks South Africans who participated in the parliamentary public hearings into the possible review of Section 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996 to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation,” Mokonyane said.

Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee has concluded hearings in all provinces. The deliberations on these hearings as well as written inputs will now be considered by Parliament.

“Discussions on the issue of land ownership in South Africa are vital and working together, we can ensure that land reform can further assist in growing our economy, particularly in the agricultural sector and address the land ownership inequalities in our country.

DIRCO, Brand South Africa and the Departments of Trade and Industry and Agriculture would, as mandated, communicate to the world the government’s position on land reform.

It is on that basis that the President has set-up an Inter-Ministerial Committee. Brand SA has been doing a lot of work in Australia and the UK, and we are sending information to our different missions,” said Mokonyane.

We are in discussion with the Minister of International Relations to make sure that there is constant briefing not only to our foreign missions but to Ambassadors in the country representing their own countries, so that they have a better understanding and an appreciation that we have a responsible government with good intentions for the prosperity of South Africa.

The South African government has reiterated its commitment to a fair and sustainable land restitution and redistribution process. It has repeatedly stated that nobody has a right to invade land or to violate other people’s rights and that it will at all times uphold the law and ensure that the rights of all South Africans are protected.