Farm workers stand in a field at a farm in Klippoortie, east of Johannesburg in this Nov. 21, 2012 file photo. (Photo: Xinhua/REUTERS)
As South Africa has been mulling measures on land reform, the US State Department said here on Thursday that the current policy would send the country "down the wrong path."
Speaking at a press briefing, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that US President Donald Trump had discussed South Africa with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and asked him "to look closely at the current state of action in South Africa related to land reform."
"This is something that has been going on for many decades, the conversation and debate about land reform there," she said. "I should mention that the expropriation of land without compensation, our position is that that would risk sending South Africa down the wrong path."
Nauert said "we continue to encourage a peaceful and transparent public debate about what we consider to be a very important issue, and the South Africans certainly do as well."
"If policies are poorly -- poorly implemented, there are potentially detrimental political, socioeconomic and other issues," she said.
Nauert noted that US embassy officials have held meetings with the South African government over the issue on Thursday, but did not give more details of the meetings.
South Africa's Parliament was accelerating a process to amend the Constitution to cater to land expropriation without compensation. President Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday that the country will experience instability without a successful land reform.
A program of land redistribution was required to heal the historical "festering wound" of land dispossession and enable transformation and development, Ramaphosa told the Parliament.
On Wednesday's late night, Trump tweeted that "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," adding that the government is seizing land from white farmers.
In response, the South African government tweeted that "South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.
It added that "South Africa will speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation."
The South African government was also seeking clarification over Trump's comments.
South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu said on Thursday that Trump's remarks were "unfortunate" and based on false information.
Sisulu said she will communicate with Pompeo on the matter through diplomatic channels.
AgriForum, an association of South African farmers, has launched an international campaign to get the South African government to stop its land reform.
The group insists that land expropriation without compensation will drive away white farmers, kill jobs and threaten food security.
The government said the land reform should be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensures that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.