Johannesburg : South Africa’s government said on Friday it had summoned the top US diplomat in the country to “convey the unhappiness of the people” over President Trump’s tweet about alleged white-owned farm seizures and the “large scale killing of farmers.” In a statement, South Africa said it told US Charge d’Affaires Jessye Lapenn it was “disappointed” over the failure to use available diplomatic channels.

South Africa’s government has said Trump’s tweet was based on “false information” and served “only to polarise debate on this sensitive and crucial matter.”

The country is in the middle of a racially charged debate over land reform, a lawful process that seeks to correct the legacy of decades of white-minority rule that stripped blacks of their land.

Nearly a quarter-century after the end of apartheid, white South Africans, who comprise about 8 per cent of the population, own more than 70 per cent of the private agricultural land.

In July, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ruling African National Congress party would amend the constitution so the state could start to expropriate land without compensation to speed up the process of land redistribution, but that has not yet happened and no land has been seized.

A fringe group of the white minority claims land reform will inspire violent attacks, though experts say farm attacks reflect the country’s generally high crime rate and are on the decline.

Claims of “genocide” against white South Afri­cans, however, have been picked up by some white nationalists in the US, and leaders of a right-wing South African group travelled to the US in May to lobby officials about the alleged targeting of white farmers.

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