South Africa has hit out at efforts to "divide" the nation after US President Donald Trump waded into the country's debate about land reform.

Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to study South Africa's "land and farm seizures" and the "killing of farmers".

South Africa is deeply racially divided over plans to seize land from white farmers as it addresses its apartheid and colonial past.

The rand currency fell more than 1.5% against the dollar after Mr Trump's tweet on concerns economic sanctions could be imposed.

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. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018

"I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and large scale killing of farmers," Trump said.

"South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers."

It appears to be in response to a Fox News report on the murder of white farmers in South Africa.

The official South African government Twitter account responded: "South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past."

In a follow-up tweet, it added: "South Africa will speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation."

A spokeswoman for South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa said Mr Trump was "misinformed" and it would seek clarification from the US embassy in Pretoria.

The ruling African National Congress has proposed the expropriation of land without compensation to address the issue of stolen land during the apartheid era. The policy has not been implemented.

White farmers own 72% of South Africa's agricultural land, according to the government's Land Audit Report.

In May, farm lobby group Agri SA claimed farm murders were at their lowest level in two decades, with 47 farmers killed in 2017-18.

South Africa remains a violent country, in 2016-17 the police recorded 19,016 murders.

The rand trimmed its losses against the dollar in late Thursday trading but the threat of sanctions could see it mirroring Turkey's plight.

Kathleen Brooks, research director at Capital Index, said: "If Trump uses sanctions against South Africa to try and force the SA government to change its policy towards the white farmers, then we could see the rand experience the same tumultuous decline as the Turkish lira, which is down some 50% since the US started to impose sanctions on President Erdogan's government.

"The South African rand is vulnerable, not only to the imposition of sanctions, in particular any threat to South Africa's access to the African Growth & Opportunity Act, which grants many of its products duty-free access to the US, but also to higher US interest rates."

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Earlier this year, Australia's home affairs minister Peter Dutton prompted a diplomatic row with Pretoria.

Mr Dutton said white South African farmers who wanted to migrate to Australia "deserve special attention" for the "horrific circumstances" of land seizures and violence.

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