February 14, 2015 / 11:49 AM / 3 years ago

South Africa's Zuma pushes ahead with curbs on foreign land rights

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Foreigners will be barred from owning land in South Africa and no individual will be able to own more than 12,000 hectares, the equivalent of two farms, under legislation currently in the works, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.

South African President Jacob Zuma speaks during his State of the Nation address at the opening of parliament in Cape Town February 12, 2015. REUTERS/Rodger Bosch/Pool

Giving more details of a Land Holdings Bill announced this week in a State of the Nation address, Zuma said foreign individuals and companies would be restricted to long-term leases of between 30 and 50 years.

If any South Africans owned more than 12,000 hectares, the excess would be liable for seizure by the state, Zuma said, in comments that are likely to upset the large -- and still predominantly white-owned -- commercial farming sector.

“If any single individual owns above that limit, the government would buy the excess land and redistribute it,” he said in a statement.

However, the law will not be applied retroactively for fear of falling foul of the constitution.

The legislation would be sent to cabinet for approval soon, after which it will be opened for public consultation and then submitted parliament, Zuma added.

Land remains a highly emotive issue in South Africa, where 300 years of colonial rule and white-minority government have left the vast majority of farmland in the hands of a tiny, mainly white, minority.

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the ruling African National Congress has tried to redress the balance through a ‘willing seller, willing buyer’ scheme, but has fallen well short of its target of transferring a third of farmland to blacks by last year.

Reporting by Ed Cropley; Editing by Toby Chopra

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