Govt may curb foreign land ownership
Johannesburg - South Africa may put restrictions on the sale of land to foreigners as it aims to transfer ownership to blacks as part of a drive to correct racial imbalances in land distribution, a draft policy showed on Thursday.
After the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa set a target of handing over 30% of commercial farmland to blacks by 2014 but progress has been slow, prompting the government to review the policy.
Land reform is a sensitive issue in South Africa and has been brought into focus by the decline in agriculture in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where many white-owned commercial farms were seized by President Robert Mugabe's government.
The South African programme has caused unease and slowed investment in the agricultural sector as white commercial farmers consider whether to reinvest in their farms. This has implications for food security and inflation at a time when food prices have been rising steeply
The department of land reform proposed in a draft green paper posted on its website that "sale of land to foreigners no longer be freehold titles but be leasehold titles subject to limiting regulations".
Freehold means a person owns the land, while in leasehold one owns the property on the land but not the land itself.
The draft policy also proposed restrictions, such as stopping foreigners going into partnership with locals and excluding foreigners from buying in sensitive areas such as coastal and agricultural, be placed on leasehold titles held by foreigners.
It further said South Africans should continue to exercise freehold rights over land although this would also be subject to regulatory limitations.
The draft paper also proposes the establishment of a Land Management Commission to monitor the execution of the policy and an office of valuer-general to provide "fair and consistent" land values and determine compensation after an expropriation.