S’Africa proposes bill to ban foreign ownership of land

by Xinhua

Foreign nationals can only be entitled to long term leasing of land with a minimum of 30 years and will not be allowed to buy land in South Africa under a proposed bill, South Africa’s Presidency said on Saturday.

The Land Holdings Bill will also regulate the amount of land that any individual can own with the limit being 12,000 hectares, an approximate equivalent of two farms, the Presidency said in a statement.

If any single individual owns above that limit, the government would buy the excess land and redistribute it, said the Presidency.

The Bill will soon be sent to the cabinet for approval, after which will be a process of public consultation and thereafter it will be submitted for the necessary parliamentary procedures before being assented to by the president.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in parliament on Thursday, South African President Jacob Zuma announced an end to the ownership of land by foreigners.

He said a bill in this regard will be submitted to parliament this year. The announcement has given rise to jitters among investors over the bill’s possible impact on foreign investment.

“Once the Bill is assented to by the president, foreign nationals can only be entitled to long term leasing of land with a minimum of 30 years and will not be allowed to buy land in South Africa,” the Presidency said.

“The practice of limiting land ownership by foreign nationals and juristic persons is an established practice internationally.”

Under the proposed bill, foreign nationals and juristic persons are understood as noncitizens as well as juristic persons whose dominant share holder or controller is a foreign controlled enterprise, entity or INTEREST. Hence not all immigrants to South Africa will be excluded from land ownership.

This category of foreign nationals that are noncitizens will not be able to own land in freehold from the time the policy is passed into law. They will be allowed a long term lease of 30 to 50 years, according to the bill.

It is recognized that this cannot apply retrospectively without constitutional infringements and as such those who have already acquired freehold would not have their tenure changed by the passing of the proposed law.

Furthermore, environmentally and SECURITY sensitive lands as well as those that are of historic and have cultural significance, and strategic lands (for land reform and socioeconomic development) will be classified by law and land ownership by foreign nationals (noncitizens) in these areas will be discouraged.

This policy seeks to address the need to secure South Africa’s limited land for food SECURITY and address the land injustice of more than 300 years of colonialism and apartheid, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said.

Forty-five percent of the country’s population (23 million) live on or below the poverty line, and 58 percent of this poverty stricken people are in rural areas.

Access to a land allotment for households and rural entrepreneurs and enterprises has shown to go a long way in addressing equity and poverty, Maharaj said.

Furthermore, in many instances high value agricultural land has had its use changed to luxury and leisure uses and environmentally sensitive lands have also been inappropriately developed, he said.

In some parts of the country escalations in prices have been experienced which have made land in these areas inaccessible to citizens, he added.

According to Maharaj, the proposed policy makes provisions for exemptions to access lands in classified areas based on certain conditions, primarily developmental.

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