South Africa Bans Foreign Land Ownership

Limiting foreign land ownership an international practice

Pretoria – The Presidency says the practice of limiting land ownership by foreign nationals is an established practice internationally.

President Jacob Zuma announced during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 12 February that foreign nationals and juristic persons will not be allowed to own land in South Africa, but will be eligible for long term lease.

“Foreign nationals will not be allowed to own land in South Africa but will be eligible for long term lease. In this regard, the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill will be submitted to Parliament this year,” the President said.

Once the bill is assented to by the President, foreign nationals will 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 bill will also regulate the amount of land that any individual can own -- the limit being 12 000 hectares -- an approximate equivalent of two farms.

“If any single individual owns above that limit, government will buy the excess land and redistribute it. The bill will soon be sent to Cabinet for approval, after which there will be a process of public consultation.

“Thereafter, it will be submitted for the necessary parliamentary procedures before being assented to by the President,” the Presidency said on Saturday.

According to the proposed policy, foreign nationals and juristic persons are understood as non-citizens as well as juristic persons whose dominant shareholder or controller is a foreign controlled enterprise, entity or interest. Therefore, not all immigrants to South Africa will be excluded from land ownership.

This category of foreign nationals that are non-citizens 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.

“It is recognised 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 - the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill.

“However, in such instances the Right of First Refusal will apply in favour of another South African citizen in freehold or the State if the land is deemed strategic,” said the Presidency.

Protecting environmentally and security sensitive land

Furthermore, environmentally and security sensitive land as well as land that is of historic and cultural significance, and strategic land (for land reform and socio-economic development) will be classified by law and land ownership by foreign nationals in these areas will be discouraged.

The policy will be affected through a call for compulsory land holdings disclosures.

“These disclosures will be in terms of race, nationality, gender, extent of land owned and its use. The process will be managed through a Land Commission established… to call for these disclosures, collect and assess the information and maintain it in collaboration with the national deeds registry,” said the Presidency.

The policy seeks to address problems including the need to secure limited land for food security and address the land injustice of more than 300 years of colonialism and apartheid.

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

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

“The proposed policy makes provisions for exemptions to access lands in classified areas based on certain conditions, primarily developmental,” said the Presidency. -