16 February 2015
The government’s proposal to put a stop to foreign ownership of land is fair as it safeguards the interests of South Africa, according to President Jacob Zuma.
He said the proposal to restrict foreign ownership of land was not going to chase away existing and potential foreign investors as they would still have the option to lease land for business use. He was speaking to the SABC on 15 February, following his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on 12 February.
Zuma was asked if the decision to disallow land ownership by foreigners would harm the country’s ability to attract foreign direct investment or foreigners doing business in South Africa. He responded that many countries were very careful when it came to land ownership as it was a critical issue for any nation, and that South Africa was not an exception.
“I think we are taking a very fair decision to say if you are coming for business and you need land, we lease it [to you]. I think that is fair.
“To buy it and make it your property when a good percentage of South African cities have no land. is very difficult to justify when people. don’t own land and part of our country is being owned by people out there,” he said.
In his Sona, Zuma announced that a proposed law, the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill, would be submitted to parliament this year. In terms of the proposal, foreign nationals and juristic persons would not be allowed to own land in South Africa, but would be eligible for a long-term lease with a minimum of 30 years.
According to the bill, foreign nationals and juristic persons are understood to be 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 who 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 was recognised that this could not apply retrospectively without constitutional infringements, The Presidency admitted, and those who had already acquired freehold would not have their tenure changed by the passing of the proposed law.
However, in such instances the Right of First Refusal would apply in favour of another South African citizen in freehold or the State if the land was deemed strategic.
A ceiling of land ownership is also set at a maximum of 12 000 hectares in the bill. The proposals were “very fair” to foreign nationals as well, Zuma said.
The decision was also taken bearing in mind the fact that people had land taken from them in the past. The decision to limit foreign land ownership was taken to protect the interests of all South Africans, he added.
“We now know that people come and buy the best part of the land, so local people are not going to have an opportunity to. do business in their own country because it has been bought. You might end up with three quarters of the land in South Africa being owned by people out there and we end up paying rent to them (sic).”
Zuma also spoke about the Malamulele protests over a demand for a new municipality. While people had the right to protest and express their frustration over any issue, it was not correct for them to infringe on the rights of others.
The Malamulele protests had been very tense, leading to protesters “shutting down” all services – from schools to businesses not being allowed to operate. This mindset was “the wrong approach”, Zuma said.
“What is not wanted is the nature of the protests. While people have the right to protest, if you are a citizen of South Africa, you don’t fight for your rights and in the process, undermine the rights of other people.
“That is the problem in Malamulele, that once you want something, you must [shut down] everything. but once you impact on the right of kids to go to school, that is not acceptable.”