COMMENT:

The power of the United States President should never be underestimated - and while it's questionable whether it's always used to good effect with the current incumbent, it seems to have worked in a country that is on the verge of becoming a powder keg.

The Don's pudgy fingers tapped out a tweet saying he'd asked his Secretary of State to closely study the South African land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers there.

Almost 50 have been murdered over the past year.

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Trump sent his tweet out last week after seeing an item on his favourite television channel, Fox News, about Pretoria's plan to speed up the land grab without compensating the farmers to redress racial imbalances in land ownership. Six days later the Government of Cyril Ramaphosa withdrew its white farmland redistribution bill.

The ruling African National Congress said the bill, passed two years ago, needed further consideration. It's not surprisingly seen as one of the most sensitive and divisive issues in post-apartheid South Africa - and something Nelson Mandela would never have envisaged nor would be have countenanced.

White farmer killings in the republic occur virtually every week but with what amounts to the Government's seal of approval they'll get much worse, and like its neighbour to the north Zimbabwe, the country runs the risk of becoming an economic basket case.

Whites in that country already live in fortresses, New Zealand's Gallagher Group's electric fencing and security systems have made a fortune there.

Whites have been farming in South Africa for several hundred years and there's a vastly disproportionate ownership of land by them as opposed to blacks. Apartheid was a harsh, unacceptable, cruel regime that when it came to an end in 1994 it was applauded by the world.

Mandela was rightly proud the transition to Black rule was achieved without bloodshed.

The land grab issue would most certainly change all that.

Barry Soper with the leader of the Afrikaners' Resistance Movement, Steyn Von Ronge.
Barry Soper with the leader of the Afrikaners' Resistance Movement, Steyn Von Ronge.

You only have to talk to a staunch, racist opponent of the change there, third generation farmer Steyn Von Ronge to get a measure of the opposition.

The leader of the Afrikaners' Resistance Movement lives in the remote Zastron district in the southern Free State where an appointment to visit his farm is essential. The foreboding entrance gate has a warning in Afrikaans to those who enter unannounced that they will be shot.

This giant of a man was fined for shooting two army officers who went on to his farm in the early 90s.

Von Ronge's house is like an armed fortress and he claimed, when I visited him five years ago, to have an army ready to fight to the death to save what he calls their heritage.

Let's hope Donald Trump follows up his tweet with some dialogue.