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Wednesday Feb 25, 2015

Ownership of land: 'We'll act lawfully'

The government has moved to allay fears on foreign land ownership and won't do anything "foolish" when applying the new legislation.

The assurance came from Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti, who chairs the government's economic, employment and infrastructure development cluster.

Nkwinti was leading a media briefing attended by more than 10 cabinet ministers and deputy ministers on how the state plans to overcome its current challenges and to grow the economy.

Nkwinti said the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill should be processed through Parliament and signed into law this year.

He said once the bill was passed and signed into law by President Jacob Zuma, the provisions of that law would come into effect.

On the question of how the law on foreign ownership will work retrospectively, Nkwinti said this was a "moot question in terms of South African constitutional jurisprudence".

"We will be prepared to engage the Constitutional Court in terms of the constitutionality of that. We won't do anything foolish, in other words. Everything will be done in terms of the law," Nkwinti pointed out.

He said South Africans should bear in mind that the country "appreciates the fact that there's foreign investment even on land".

"We're talking about productive land here, we're not talking about residential property. That's not our mandate. Our mandate is on productive land or agricultural land.

"The problem here is that you can't have a regime for foreigners which is different from that which you have for nationals. So the 12 000 hectare limit will apply to everybody owning land in South Africa," Nkwinti said.

He added that foreign nationals would not own land, but would be eligible for long leaseholds.

"We have defined long lease as a minimum of 30 years. This policy does not apply to residential property. A maximum ceiling of 12 000 hectares on agricultural land will apply to all legal and natural persons," Nkwinti said.

While resolving the energy crisis facing the country remained a priority, Nkwinti pointed out other interventions to grow the economy like encouraging private sector businesses to buy local. He said government and private sector procurement provided major opportunities for industrialisation, and the gover nment would continue to leverage state procurement to the benefit of local firms.

"Now we are talking about government and private sector procurement. We're looking at localisation. We call on the private sector to partner with government to buy local. We would like to emphasise that because it is part of what we think will accelerate growth in the economy," Nkwinti said.

The cluster of ministers also mentioned the need for infrastructure-driven industrialisation to turn the economy around.

On resolving the energy challenge, the cluster said the "Electricity War Room" was working intensively to implement the cabinet's five-point energy plan.

The plan entails Eskom's maintenance programme and introducing new generation capacity. To mitigate the energy challenges, the government would provide R23bn to Eskom in the next fiscal year to improve its finances, he said. One of the medium- to longterm objectives was diversification of energy sources.

The Star

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