Proposed foreign ownership ban only applies to agricultural land

President Jacob Zuma during the State of the Nation Address on 12 February 2015, announced that “foreign nationals will not be allowed to own land in South Africa but will be eligible for long term lease”.

The proposed Land Holdings Bill aims to redress the problem of historical land injustice and food security in the country.

Many members of the public were concerned and confused by the initial announcement, seeking clarity as to what types of land were considered. It has been confirmed that the bill applies only to agricultural land and not industrial or residential property.

Udo Carelse spoke to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Bheki Cele, who explained that the proposed law protected agricultural and grazing land from encroachment by any entities, both local and international.

The main aim is to protect the agricultural land, even from South Africans if they are not going to utilize land for agricultural purposes.

The new Land Holdings Bill dictates the following:

  • Foreign nationals can only be entitled to long term leasing of land with a minimum of 30 years and will not be allowed to buy agricultural land in South Africa.
  • The amount of land owned by any individual will be regulated, limiting ownership to 12 000 hectares;
  • Should an individual own agricultural land above that limitation, the government would purchase and redistribute the excess.

President Zuma in his response to the State of the Nation debate, referring to commercial farm ownership, said that “the fate of too many is in the hands of too few.”

Cele said that to his knowledge there are 3500 commercial farmers in South Africa, and that the sector’s majority was dominated by white South Africans.

After government postponed the deadline for transferring 30% of productive farmland back to black South Africans, Cele says that the Department of Rural Development is putting in place programmes to assist black farmers with the necessary skills and equipment to make the productive farms sustainable after the land transfers.

Listen to Bheki Cele unpack the proposed agricultural land reform policy with Udo Carelse:

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