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The limit to foreign land ownership

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26 Feb 2013

The proposal to limit foreign land ownership in South Africa to a leasehold of a minimum of 30 years is not a sign of antagonism to foreign investment, says the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti.

Under the new land tenure system proposal, state and public land will be available on leasehold, while private land will be available as freehold with limited extent and communal tenure through institutionalised use-rights.

Nkwinti, who announced he will meet next month with ambassadors to explain the significance of the proposal which forms part of the new land tenure system introduced through the Green Paper on Land Reform, pointed out that foreigners could however not be excluded from playing a role in land transformation.

“If we are saying to South Africans we will limit the extent of your [tenure] holding in order to have land to redistribute, we can’t leave them out of that process, just because they are here and are investing,” he says.

Nkwinti says his department had already met with a delegation from Europe in 2011 and with a delegation from the Germany last year.

Under the new land tenure system proposal, state and public land will be available on leasehold, while private land will be available as freehold with limited extent and communal tenure through institutionalised use-rights.

If the proposal is approved foreigners will be permitted to lease land only a long-lease basis for a minimum of 30 years, he says.

He says the ANC had told him that a minimum of 30 years should be applied, however this could grow to 50 or 99-year leaseholds.

He says the Land Management Commission, which was proposed in the Green Paper, will also oversee land owned by foreigners, but Nkwinti said for now the focus would be on restricting agricultural land owned by foreigners.

Permanent residents would be treated as free-hold holders with limited extent, he says.

In all, 78 percent or 96 million hectares of land is privately owned, while 26 million hectares of land or 22 percent is owned by the state.

Nkwinti said a team of lawyers was working on the re-opening of land claims and addition of claims for land confiscated before 1913.

The re-opening of lodgment of claims will take place once amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act have been signed into law by President Jacob Zuma.

He says he had been working with the legal team or the past 18 months and had held a workshop with the team last Friday and Saturday.

He has given the legal team two weeks to codify the new changes to the Act.

As at March 31 last year, R24.6 billion had been spent to settle a total of 76 705 land restitution cases, with about 5 000 opting to reclaim the land.

This made it difficult for the state to achieve 30 percent black ownership of land by 2014, says Nkwinti, who added that many land-claim recipients opted to be paid out because of poverty or because they wanted to move to cities.

The department is compiling a manual, to be translated into all 11 languages, on how to go about making a land reclaim.

Next month Nkwinti is due to meet descendants of Khoi and San to discuss land claims. He says the claims process for Khoi and San may trigger off one of the most important moments for the country. SAnews.gov.za 

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