South Africa Needs Debate on Land-Ownership Cap, Minister Says

South Africa should hold further discussions on plans to cap the amount of land an individual can own and doesn’t want the process to compromise food production, Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana said.

The Regulation of Land Holdings Bill, first outlined by President Jacob Zuma in February, will limit the amount of land anyone can hold to 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres), equal to about two farms. Excess land will be bought by the government and redistributed. A commission will call for compulsory disclosures of race, nationality, gender, the extent of land owned and its use. The limit will be applied retrospectively, Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said Feb. 24.

“Nothing is cast in stone,” Zokwana told reporters at a grain-farmers’ congress in Bothaville in the Free State province. “We need more debate. We have to take into account the type of crop we’re involved in. The areas you’re farming and all those things need to be brought into account. The key is to ensure there’s food security” as land reform should “increase production,” he said.

The ruling African National Congress, which came into power after winning the first all-race elections in 1994, has been struggling to reassure the country’s majority black population of economic redress, with land a critical factor to resolve when addressing South Africa’s past wrongs, Zuma said in a Feb. 12 speech. The party has been under pressure since winning a reduced majority of 62.2 percent in the national elections in May.

The bill includes preventing foreigners from owning land, but has a provision to allow non-citizens to lease it for 30 to 50 years. People who’ve already acquired grounds won’t have their tenure changed if the law is passed, it said. Bills are draft versions of laws and have to be published for public comment, referred to parliamentary committees and debated before becoming legislation

A land valuer-general will be appointed by the end of March to determine the appropriate price that the state should pay for grounds, Nkwinti said Feb. 24. Details of how property companies’ holdings will be dealt with under the new dispensation will be determined when legislation is formulated, he said.

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