Heather Nauert. Picture: US State Department
Heather Nauert. Picture: US State Department

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo will “focus” on SA’s plans to expropriate land without compensation following a discussion with US President Donald Trump, spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a briefing on Thursday night.

She confirmed that the South African government and the US embassy in Pretoria had discussed the matter.

The meeting follows a tweet in which Trump said: “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.”

Nauert said on the possible expropriation of land without compensation, “Our position is that that would risk sending SA down the wrong path.”

But Nauert said SA’s land plans could not be compared to Zimbabwe’s disastrous land seizures.

“I think that the situation between SA and also Zimbabwe are quite different.

“It may be easy for some to draw comparisons but there are very big differences. In Zimbabwe we saw the government there squash civil society, shut down the media from doing their jobs and reporting and destroyed an independent judiciary. We have not seen that happen in SA so I think they are different situations altogether,” she said.

The state department continued to “encourage a peaceful and transparent public debate about what we consider to be a very important issue and South Africans certainly do as well.”

Asked if the US would consider sanctions against SA if expropriation without compensation went ahead, she said: “You know we would never forecast that. That is such a hypothetical. That’s a hypothetical and I’m not going to comment on it.”

SA's department of international relations and co-operation said on Friday morning that the US charge d’affaires was asked “to convey to Washington that Pretoria is disappointed about Washington’s failure to use available diplomatic channels”.

Trump’s tweet “serves only to polarise debate on this sensitive and crucial matter”, it said.

“The government of SA wishes to caution against alarmist, false, inaccurate and misinformed, as well as – in some cases – politically motivated statements that do not reflect the policies and intentions of the South African government.”