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Nkwinti reassures on land ownership

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Government will “not do anything foolish” over land ownership to scare away foreign investors, Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said on Tuesday.

Briefing journalists at Parliament on aspects of the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill, set to be processed by Parliament, he confirmed that future ownership of agricultural land by foreign nationals would be prohibited.

He further confirmed that the draft legislation, which places a maximum ceiling of 12,000 hectares on agricultural land ownership for all — both locals and foreigners — in South Africa, would be signed into law later this year.

“Future foreign ownership of agricultural land by foreign nationals will be prohibited. However, foreign nationals will be eligible for long-term leasehold of a minimum of 30 years.”

Responding to a question on what would happen with land currently owned by foreign nationals — and whether they would be forced to sell it, or convert to leasehold — he suggested this was a moot issue.

“The question of retrospectivity is a moot question in terms of South African constitutional jurisprudence. It’s a moot issue.”

Government was prepared to engage the Constitutional Court on the matter.

“We won’t do anything foolish. Everything will be done in terms of the law, because we have foreign nationals who own land here.

“In 2006/07, it was… less than five percent. We want them to continue investing in our country. So we will not do anything foolish. But they’ll still have to abide by South African law.”

In this regard, foreigners who owned more than 12,000 hectares would have to comply with the new cap.

“There won’t be two regimes. If they’ve got 60,000 hectares, they will have to live with the South African policy. Anything above that [12,000 hectares], the state will buy…”

Earlier, Nkwinti said the recent land summit had decided that for a “large scale and viable commercial farm”, the land limit should be set at 12,000 hectares.

Responding at the briefing to another question, Nkwinti also denied there would be a “two-farm” ownership cap. The ceiling on agricultural land ownership, he suggested, was based solely on area.

“There is no two-farm cap, there’s 12,000 hectares.”

On the draft Expropriation Bill, Nkwinti denied this was aimed specifically at foreign land owners.

“The current Expropriation Bill, which is going to go through Parliament this year, is not targeting foreign ownership at all, it is targeting anybody [both locals and foreigners].” SAPA

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