S.Africa unveils new land reform draft policy

31st August 2011, Comments 0 comments

South Africa aims to restrict private and foreign land ownership in a new draft reform policy released Wednesday that aims to overhaul lagging efforts to transfer farms to the black majority.

The 11-page draft sets out the state's vision to transform land ownership patterns -- still skewed 17 years after the end of apartheid -- and will lay the basis for future legislation.

Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti reaffirmed South Africa's commitment to an open market system, where only willing private owners will sell to the state, but said the state planned to act on "distorted" pricing.

"There are no silver bullets to the resolution of the post-colonial land questions anywhere in the world," Nkwinti told reporters.

"In our country we wanted to solve it yesterday -- it's not possible, such an emotive issue. So we think it's going to take a bit of time and it will require patience."

The draft proposes leasing out state and public land, limits on privately owned land, conditions and obligations for foreign owners, and communal tenure on land under traditional chiefs.

"Anywhere else, foreigners do own land but on strict conditions if they actually have that privilege of owning land," said Nkwinti.

"In our country as well, we have reached the point that we want to make sure that we take control of the national asset that is land. We've got to make sure that we do exactly the same as other countries are doing, to control the holdings of our land by foreigners in the interests of our country."

The state plans to keep buying white-owned farms to redistribute to blacks, but proposes tackling the sticky problem of pricing with a new land valuer office that will "level the playing fields".

"The willing buyer-willing seller model on its own, it's a problem, because it distorts the market," said Nkwinti, pointing to above market value prices.

"There will always be willing buyer-willing seller model working, except we want to make sure that some of the vagaries would be dealt with."

Redistribution efforts have largely failed so far, with only 10 percent of redistributed projects productive.

Land reform targets are "slippery", said Nkwinti, who admitted that a previous bid to transfer 30 percent of white-owned land by 2014 was unlikely, as around 40 billion rands ($5.7 billion, 4 billion euros) would be needed to buy farms.

"I can't see us raising that kind of money to acquire the 30 percent we're talking about by 2014," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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