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Thursday Sep 01, 2011

Green paper spells out conditions for foreigners owning land

Foreigners will not be barred from owning land in South Africa but will have to meet strict obligations.

Presenting the long-awaited green paper on land reform to journalists yesterday, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said it was in the interests of the country to control the holding of land by foreigners.

The green paper proposes a fourtier tenure system, with foreigners being allowed to own freehold property through precarious tenure, with obligations and conditions attached.

"We have reached the point where we want to make sure that we take control of the national asset that is land," Nkwinti said.

At a post-cabinet briefing last week, a senior official in the department, Sunday Ogunronbi, said the obligations referred to agricultural land, where food security and productivity were important.

Ogunronbi said there would be restrictions on the export of farm produce and a requirement to have a black South African as a partner.

"The conditions and obligations will make a distinction between a South African and a foreigner and will depend on the scale of acquisition."

The green paper also proposes a number of institutions to support the land reform programme, including a Land Management Commission, which will have powers to subpoena individuals and entities regarding their land holding or land interests; validate or invalidate title deeds; demand a declaration of any land holding; grant amnesty and/or initiate prosecution; and seize or confiscate land acquired through fraudulent or corrupt means.

Nkwinti said the body "will validate, when someone lays a claim on a piece of land or a title deed that might have changed hands several times and somebody ends up not satisfied with the explanation of the deeds office. Those things will be checked and validated by the commission."

Nkwinti admitted it was unlikely the government would meet its target of redistributing 30 percent of farmland to black farmers by 2014.

"We'll do the best we can to try and get close to that; if we get that it will be great stuff."

Nkwinti said the estimated cost was R40 billion in 2009.

Land restitution was supposed to take five years, but "we are still far from concluding the process, so these targets are very slippery targets".

Nkwinti said the target for now should be to ensure all land reform farms were 100 percent productive.

Nkwinti said a working group of land experts, including emerging and commercial farmers, would meet later this month to discuss the proposed policy.

"We are saying, this is a policy measure, what does it mean to you, what are the dynamics in terms of this limitation?"

Cape Times


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