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South Africa To Ban Foreign Land Ownership?

Author: Mipe Okunseinde

Landowners in South Africa again are focused on a governmental land reform policy that seeks to prohibit foreign ownership of land in the country.  The government has been publicly discussing the policy for over two years but it is back in the spotlight after President Jacob Zuma announced in last week’s State of the Nation Address that a “Regulation of Land Holdings Bill will be submitted to Parliament this year.”  Under the proposed Bill, “foreign nationals and juristic persons […] as well as juristic persons whose dominant shareholder or controller is a foreign controlled enterprise, entity or interest” will be prohibited from owning land and instead only eligible to lease land for periods of between 30 to 50 years.  In addition, the Bill sets a ceiling of land ownership that restricts the amount of land that any individual — regardless of nationality — can own to 12,000 hectares.  Should an individual own land in excess of that amount, the government will purchase and redistribute the land.

The impact that the proposed legislative measure will have on foreigners who currently own land in South Africa is especially unclear.  President Zuma has “recognised that [the Bill] cannot apply retrospectively without constitutional infringements and as such those who have already acquired freehold would not have their tenure changed” should the measure pass. 

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