Property: Foreign owned land – legal comment

On 19 February 2015 we know a bit more, and in certain respects, less, regarding the limitation of foreign land ownership. We will, however, need to wait for the Bill to be published to comment on the actual detail therein.

What we do know is:

  1. There is still uncertainty regarding what categories of land will be targeted. Mention has been made of it only applying to arable land. The 12000 hectare limitation rule will apparently vary from province to province. Mention has also been made that the "structure of ownership" but not the "structure of production" in respect of certain farms that fall outside the set parameters will change, but there is no clarity on what this will entail.
  2. Non-citizens and juristic persons whose dominant shareholder or controller is a foreign controlled enterprise, entity or interest is the target group. Thus not all immigrants are affected. Mention has, however, been made that permanent residents may be treated as freehold.
  3. The Act will not apply retrospectively. However where a non-citizen disposes of the freehold title it holds, there will be a defined first right of refusal in favour of a South African citizen or the state, depending on how strategic the land on offer is.
  4. There is no certainty on the term of leasehold as yet. Terms of 30, 50 and 99 years have been mentioned.
  5. There will be compulsory land holding disclosures. This seems to be in respect of all land owners. The disclosure will be based on race, nationality and gender, and this will be monitored and facilitated via the National Deeds Registry, and the Land Commission to be established.

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