The South African government has come down hard on US president Donald Trump over a tweet about farmers.

Trump had tweeted that farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed, a topic on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa, which is one of the most sensitive issues in the country's post-apartheid history.

Trump wrote overnight: "I have asked Secretary of State (Mike)... Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers."

Reacting to the president of the United States, South Africa said Trump’s tweet shows “narrow perception” and “seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past”.

"South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.

"South Africa will speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation," it said on its official Twitter account."

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As elections due in 2019 approach, President Cyril Ramaphosa has intervened to accelerate land reform in order to "undo a grave historical injustice" against the black majority during colonialism and the apartheid era.

Even though apartheid ended in 1994, the white community that makes up eight percent of the population "possess 72 percent of farms" compared to "only four percent" in the hands of black people who make up four-fifths of the population, Ramaphosa said, according to AFP.

The imbalance stems from purchases and seizures during the colonial era that were then enshrined in law during apartheid.

Seeking to redress the situation, Ramaphosa recently announced that the constitution would be amended to allow for land to be seized and redistributed without compensation to the current owners.

But the plans have yet to be approved by parliament, and there is a vigorous debate in South Africa about how land redistribution would work -- and whether seizures could be economically damaging as they were in post-independence Zimbabwe.

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