South Africa: Trump Appoints Handbag Designer as Ambassador to Pretoria

Inside Africa

United States President Donald Trump has announced his nomination to fill the post of ambassador to Pretoria: South African-born luxury handbag designer Lana Marks.

The post has been vacant for nearly two years, reports EWN.

A White House statement on Wednesday, listing several U.S. appointments, said Marks was being appointed as “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to South Africa”.

“Ms. Marks is the founder and CEO of Lana Marks Ltd., Inc., a luxury fashion accessories producer.  She served on the Women’s Leadership Board at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Women’s International Forum for more than a decade. Ms. Marks attended the University of the Witwatersrand and the Institute of Personnel Management in Johannesburg, South Africa.  She speaks Afrikaans and Xhosa,” the statement said.

An entry on Marks’s website describes her as having an “an innate sense of discipline and competitiveness”.

The website says the name Lana Marks has become “synonymous with the most luxurious, fashion-forward handbags in the world, crafted from such exotic leathers as alligator, crocodile, ostrich and lizard”.

The EWN report says that Marks is also a member of Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where she lives.

The previous ambassador to South Africa, Patrick Gaspard, is a member of the Democratic Party and has been a harsh critic of Trump since leaving the diplomatic service. In early 2018, he was a signatory of a letter sent to the White House by 78 former ambassadors who represented the United States in 48 African nations. The letter asked Trump to “reassess your views on Africa and its citizens”. This followed reported comments by Trump about “shithole” African countries.

More recently, Trump said farmers in South Africa were being forced off their land and many of them killed. The remarks caused a storm of controversy in South Africa.