Trump to nominate handbag designer as SA ambassador

Relations between South Africa and the United States have been tested this year after Trump said farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed.

FILE: Luxury handbag designer Lana Marks. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - US President Donald Trump has said he will nominate South African-born luxury handbag designer Lana Marks as the new ambassador to Pretoria, filling a post that has been vacant for nearly two years.

Relations between South Africa and the United States have been tested this year after Trump said farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed.

The US president was accused of telling untruths and fuelling racial tensions. White ownership of most of the farmland in South Africa is one of the most sensitive issues in the country's post-apartheid era.

South Africa accused him of making "alarmist" and "misinformed" comments.

A White House statement on Wednesday described Marks as the founder and head of Lana Marks, a luxury fashion accessories brand.

It said she had attended university in Johannesburg and speaks two South African languages - Afrikaans and Xhosa.

Marks, who reportedly has no diplomatic experience, is also a member of Trump's exclusive Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where she lives.

The last ambassador to South Africa, Patrick Gaspard, is a member of the Democratic Party and since leaving the diplomatic service has been a harsh critic of Trump.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is pushing for radical land redistribution to tackle inequality, this month said he sat next to Trump at a UN lunch and exchanged pleasantries.

Ramaphosa, who faces elections in 2019, has said expropriating farms without compensating their owners would "undo a grave historical injustice" against the black majority.