Tue | Aug 20, 2019

Trump speaks out about Africa again, and many cringe

Published:Friday | August 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM

By now, many Africans know to cringe whenever Trump and their continent are mentioned together.

It's happened again. In a tweet containing inaccurate comments, President Donald Trump said he had instructed his secretary of state to "closely study" alleged land seizures from white farmers in South Africa. The issue is racially divisive almost a quarter-century after the end of apartheid, the system of white minority rule.

Trump rarely turns his attention to Africa - the tweet was his first since he became president to mention the continent by name - but when he does, it often backfires.

The most shocking example came earlier this year when Trump reportedly used vulgar language to compare African nations to a filthy toilet. Outraged countries swiftly summoned US ambassadors to explain the comment - much as South Africa yesterday was reaching out to the US Embassy to clarify the latest remarks.

Many South Africans were stunned. "A racist bigot," the morning host of one of the country's most popular talk-radio stations, Eusebius McKaiser, told listeners before opening the airwaves to lively debate about Trump's comments.

Trump's tweet appeared just days after first lady Melania Trump took a very different approach to Africa, announcing she would be visiting several countries on the continent in October in her first big solo international trip. She said she looked forward to learning about the issues children face and appreciating Africa's history and culture.

It was the latest hint that the First Lady might be subtly separating herself from her husband and his controversial views.