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State focus now on foreign farm owners

Feb 22 2013 13:35 Sapa
Gugile Nkwinti

Gugile Nkwinti (Picture: Beeld)

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Cape Town - Land reform efforts are focusing for now on not allowing foreign nationals to own agricultural land in South Africa, Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said on Friday.

Ownership of land by foreigners "in other spaces in the country" would be looked at later, he told reporters at Parliament.

Responding to a question - on whether his saying earlier this month that foreign nationals would no longer be able to own land in South Africa applied to both urban and rural land - he said he had been referring to the country's 82 million hectares of agricultural land.

"We're talking about the 82 million hectares of agricultural land. They (foreign nationals) own it there, they've got farms everywhere in the country, whether they're game (farms) or whatever commodities out there.

"So when we talk about land owned by foreign nationals, we're talking about agricultural land, the 82 million hectares across the country."

The question of land owned by foreign national in other parts of the country "is a question we're discussing with public works and other departments that have got land vested in them".

Nkwinti referred to his proposal for establishing a land management commission, which, he said, would go "beyond agricultural land".

"It then affects land that is controlled by other departments, and therefore it will also affect foreign land ownership because these are properties we're talking about - land and landed properties."

Foreign ownership of land outside of agricultural land would be dealt with by the commission. Nkwinti did not say when this would happen.

He said his department remained busy with an audit to establish the race and nationality of landowners in South Africa. Records in deeds offices did not reflect race or nationality.

Nkwinti repeated that once the process was completed, foreign nationals would not be able to own agricultural land in South Africa, only lease it.

Asked why, with foreign ownership of land in South Africa estimated to be less than one percent of the total, government was seized with this matter, he said: "We are... transforming from a race-based system of apartheid to a non-racial system of governance. We have an historical obligation to do so."

Asked whether this might not jeopardise government's policy of attracting foreign direct investment, Nkwinti said foreign ownership of land could not be placed off limits.

"We can't say there are people from outside who are investors here, we must be friendly to them, we can't touch that. No. If we are saying to South Africans we will limit the extent of your holding in order to have land to redistribute, we can't leave them (foreign nationals) out of that process. Just because they are here and they are investing."

Nkwinti said there were plans to meet ambassadors from other countries next month, to explain the land reform process to them.

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