The complexity of the South African land reform process, including the continuing national dialogue about expropriation, has not travelled well across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States and there is some “misinformation” about what it actually entails.
This is according to John Sullivan, the US deputy secretary of state, who visited the country last week to strengthen bilateral relations with South Africa.
He met representatives from a range of local and US businesses, students that are part of American scholarship programmes, and senior officials from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation during his three-day official visit.
More than 600 US businesses are registered in South Africa and the country is the third largest foreign direct investor in the local economy.
Sullivan told journalists at a round-table discussion on Friday that the issue of land reform and expropriation was discussed both with officials from the South African government and representatives of agriculture. He said an open and transparent land reform process will help retain confidence in the economy, while a closed and non-transparent process will achieve the opposite.
The U.S. takes its bilateral relationship with #SouthAfrica very seriously. Deputy Secretary of @StateDept John Sullivan met today with Dir. General Kgabo Mahoai of @DIRCO_ZA. U.S. is proud to be working alongside our SA partners to support a secure, democratic, & prosperous SA. pic.twitter.com/6ZGMix0Jgp
— US Embassy SA (@USEmbassySA) March 15, 2019
He said that the issues around land reform are not understood well in the US and that misinformation may be one of the reasons why.
“Land reform has gotten substantial publicity in the United States…there was a front-page story on the Sunday New York Times last week. But I think there is some misinformation in the US, the issue is complex and I don’t think it translated well across the ocean and has been covered with the depth and perspective that is necessary.
“My approach here, given my goal of promoting deeper and stronger commercial bonds in order to encourage foreign direct investment by US companies in South Africa, is to plead with the government that processes that are underway remain transparent and that it promotes confidence in the South African economy,” Sullivan said.
Afrikaner rights group AfriForum and the Institute for Race Relations have recently travelled to the US to campaign against expropriation.
Both organisations were criticised in some quarters about their message to the media and lobby groups in the US, especially after AfriForum’s Ernst Roets was interviewed on the Fox News Channel in which the host, Tucker Carlson, made some inaccurate remarks.
Sullivan said his delegation met with “farmers” but neither he nor Rob Mearkle, spokesperson for the US embassy in Pretoria, were willing to elaborate about the nature of those discussions.
News24, however, understands that the meeting included AgriSA’s Omri van Zyl and Grain SA’s Jaco Minnaar, as well as the ANC’s Ronald Lamola and Enoch Godongwana.
AgriSA’s message to Sullivan was that expropriation without compensation, as is mooted by some, will have a disastrous effect on the economy and that there are other ways to ensure inclusive growth in the agricultural sector. The ANC’s representatives were seemingly open about the party and government’s failures and explained the need for fair and sustainable redress.