‘More land in foreign hands than is believed’

2013-02-14 00:00

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe says the party’s decision to limit foreign land ownership is not motivated by xenophobia.

At its Mangaung conference in December, the party came up with a policy proposal that could see foreigners being barred from owning land in South Africa.

It said existing foreign land ownership should be converted into long-term leasehold once the government had completed its long-awaited land audit.

Addressing academics at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in Soweto, Mantashe said more land in South Africa was owned by foreigners than people were made to believe.

The proposed leases could be anything between 30, 50 or 99 years, he said.

“If you don’t regulate foreign ownership of land, you will sit in a country that is not yours … As you move closer to the coast and more affluent areas, there’s a high level of land ownership by foreigners.

“In the policy that came out of the national conference, it says we must give them long leases with conditions. It means [if] you get the land … the condition is that you will use it. It’s not just a holiday home,” he said.

Mantashe was responding to political analyst Steven Friedman’s comments that making foreigners an issue was not the best way to deal with land reform in South Africa.

Friedman said this jarred with the ANC’s anti-xenophobia policy resolution.

“You can’t say the ANC supports action against xenophobia and at the same time have an attitude that says the problem is foreigners. The problem in this country is inequitable land ownership. It’s not a question of the nationality of who is doing the inequitableness [sic],” he said.

But Mantashe denied that xenophobia was behind the mooted policy.

“It’s not a question of a xenophobic process. It’s a question of saying: should land be an asset of those who have resources? What do we do to deal with the grievance of the dispossessed?” he asked.

UJ professor Kwandiwe Kondlo, who was part of the team that investigated foreign land ownership a few years ago, said that although the ANC resolutions on land reform were good, it was not clear how the party would deal with the “historic grievances” that resulted from land dispossession.

He suggested there should be a commission on the “narratives of pain” that still exist as a result of dispossession.

The government’s land audit, which investigates land ownership in SA, is expected to be completed by the end of next month.

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