SA to fast-track bill to block land sales to foreigners

Johannesburg Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The weaker rand has helped make cities like Johannesburg attractive to overseas buyers

The South African government has announced plans to fast-track a bill barring foreigners from buying land.

The Regulations of Land Holdings Bill would mean foreigners will only be able to lease land for 30 years.

However it will not allow for the expropriation of land currently owned by people from outside the nation. An estimated 7% of land in South Africa is owned by foreigners.

The government hopes that the bill will become law within five years.

Popular property choice

The weaker rand and lenient property laws make the country, which prides itself as the most developed economy in Africa, a top choice for property buyers from abroad.

But now the government is looking to put a stop to that trend.

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti, announced that within the next five years, purchase of new land would be restricted to locals only under the new bill.

The department said the bill would be submitted to parliament in November, and could come into law in 2019.

Mr Nkwinti assured existing foreign landowners that the bill would not mean the annexing of their current properties, saying that applying the law retrospectively would be unconstitutional.

"We cannot act in an arbitrary manner," he said.

Who is foreign?

Mr Nkwinti said the government would use the legal definitions currently applied by the Department of Home Affairs to determine who was a foreigner.

"We don't have to reinvent the wheel, we will just use the definition of what a foreign national is in the country," he said.

The ruling ANC government has been criticised over its two decade rule for not fully addressing the issues of land reform.

Critics believe the current system of willing buyer, willing seller is not enough to reconsolidate centuries of unequal land ownership.

The situation was made worse by the 1913 Land Act, which restricted ownership by the black population, who made up 67% of the population, to only 7% of the land.

Extreme government critics, such as the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters - who hold 10% of seats in parliament - have called for expropriation of land without compensation.

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