Daniel Friedman
3 minute read
23 Oct 2018
9:53 am

Trump’s pick for SA ambassador – a handbag designer with legal issues

Daniel Friedman

Lana Marks has zero diplomatic experience, several lawsuits against her, and a membership to Trump's Mar-a-Lago club.

Lana Marks (centre) being interviewed by CNN ahead of the Royal Wedding in May, 2018. Picture: Facebook.

US President Donald Trump has raised eyebrows by reportedly choosing a luxury handbag designer with no diplomatic experience as his pick for America’s ambassador to South Africa.

Notably, Lana Marks, who was born in East London but has been living in Palm Beach Florida since 1987, is a member of Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago club. Membership to the club costs $100,000 (R1.4 million) for an initial fee and $14,000 a year.

Marks would only become the ambassador to South Africa after being approved by the US Senate.

Trump appears to have a history of choosing paying members of his luxury members-only club as ambassadors.

One of Mar-a-Lago’s first members, Robin Bernstein, was made US ambassador to the Dominican Republic under Trump, while two other members were nominated to become the ambassadors to Austria and Ireland, but declined.

READ MORE: Ramaphosa tells Trump: Keep your America. Stay out of our issues

Marks makes luxury handbags for a living, some of which cost up to $400,000. She has also been accused of fabricating facts about her past and has had more than half a dozen lawsuits against her in the US for allegedly cheating lawyers, accountants, landlords and employees out of money. She also faces legal troubles in South Africa and Israel, with her own siblings taking action against her over a family trust.

She has been accused of embellishing all or at least of parts of her tennis career. She claims she played at Wimbledon and the French Open, yet no evidence of this can be found.

Marks took to Facebook on Sunday to list her connections to South Africa. She may have been reacting to reports on her lack of qualifications.

According to Marks, she has a “background in [the] SA political, economic, social, and media landscape”.

She also “studied at Wits [University]”, speaks “fluent Xhosa”, and “passed the Hoertaalbond Eksamen in Afrikaans”.

And, adding some information seemingly unrelated to her possible future role as US ambassador to South Africa, she also laid claim to being a “businesswoman for 30 years”, a “mom for 37 years”, a “wife for 42 years”, and in case you were not yet persuaded as to how brilliant she is, a “ninja, forever!!”.


Trump’s relationship with South Africa is currently strained since he tweeted that he is looking to “closely study” our country’s land situation and farm murders.

“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. South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers,” Trump said in a tweet.

READ MORE: Trump is personally watching SA on land issue

South Africa’s government soon responded, saying “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past”.

And, in a speech at a biodiversity conference in Limpopo, an uncharacteristically angry President Cyril Ramaphosa said that Trump “can keep his America; when I meet him I will tell him”.

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