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South Africa: Proposal to Limit Land Ownership by Citizens and Foreigners

(Feb. 24, 2015) On February 12, 2015, in his 2015 State of the Nation address, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma announced that his government is preparing to propose for parliamentary action the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill. (South Africa’s Zuma Outlines Land Reform Plans, BBC NEWS (Feb. 14, 2015).) Among other objectives, the measure aims to “secure … limited land for food security and address the land injustice of more than 300 years of colonialism and apartheid.” (SONA 2015: Legislation to Come Before Parliament, The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa website (Feb. 15, 2015).)

A key part of the draft measure relates to the ownership of land by foreigners. The bill will seek to prohibit foreigners, including non-citizen natural persons and juridical persons “whose dominant shareholder or controller is a foreign controlled enterprise, entity or interest,” from owning land in freehold. (Id.) However, foreigners will be permitted to acquire land under long-term leases of 30 to 50 years. (Id.) Significantly, the proposal will not have retroactive effect and foreigners who currently own land in freehold will be able to continue to do so. (Id.) In addition, although it was not made clear in the President’s speech, Gugile Nkwinti, the Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform, later clarified that the proposal’s application is limited to farmland and it will not affect ownership of residential property. (Ed Stoddard, Proposed South Africa Ban on Foreign Lawn Ownership Aimed at Farms: Minister, REUTERS (Feb. 17, 2015).)

The proposal will also limit land ownership by any individual citizen to a maximum of 12,000 hectares (29,652.6 acres) of land. (Presidency on Limiting Foreign Land Ownership in South Africa, South African Government website (Feb. 14, 2015).) Anyone who owns land in excess of this amount will be required to sell the excess to the South African government, which will “redistribute it.” (Id.)