US urges more transparency on land reform in South Africa -

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The debate on land reform has not translated well in the US and investors are looking for more transparency from the South African government that it will not hurt the economy, says US deputy secretary of state John Sullivan.

Addressing the media on Friday evening in Rosebank, following talks with SA officials, Sullivan said a number of issues were discussed.

“Land reform has gotten significant attention but there is a lot of misinformation in the US. I don't think it has translated well across the ocean and been covered with the depth and perspective that is necessary.”

US President Donald Trump waded into the land debate last year in a late-night tweet in which he said he had asked secretary of state Mike Pompeo to look into land and farm seizures and the large-scale killing of farmers in SA.

Trump's comments drew a backlash from the SA government, which said he was misinformed, and led to the rand weakening by 1.5%.

The US, one of SA's biggest investors and trade partners, was one of five countries that highlighted the need for investment security and regulatory certainty in a discussion document last year that was drawn up to contribute to the debate on boosting foreign direct investment (FDI). The document was leaked to the media and sparked a diplomatic incident earlier this year.

“My message on behalf of the US is in addressing this complex issue, that it be done in a transparent way so that both the agriculture sector and the economy generally aren’t significantly adversely affected by a nontransparent process which reduces investor confidence and reduces South Africans' confidence,” Sullivan said. “This will promote confidence in SA and the SA economy.”

Sullivan said he had met government and private-sector representatives and farmers to discuss the complexity of the issue and that he understood that the killing of farmers was reflective of SA’s high crime rate.

“The crime rate generally in SA is very high, tragically high and that is reflected in rural areas, urban areas and farms. Have there been farmers killed? Yes. Have there been white farmers killed? Yes. Have there been farm workers killed? Yes. Have there been black farm workers killed? Yes. It is a major function of the crime rate here in SA,” he said.