Detail of foreign land ownership ban still undecided

15 February 2015 - 18:29 By Sapa
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Cabinet is still to decide whether the announced ban on foreign land ownership will apply to all categories of land, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said on Sunday.

"In many countries they make a distinction between agricultural and urban land," the former land minister told reporters in Cape Town.

"So these are some of the details that are still being fleshed out by Cabinet, it is to say what exactly is going to be put in place to give effect to this decision."

Hanekom added that the impending ban, widely expected and confirmed by President Jacob Zuma in his state-of-the-nation address on Thursday, would not affect the rights of current foreign land owners and should not be seen as a threat to foreign investment.

"It is not unusual. In fact many, many countries in the world do not allow foreign ownership of land, including developed countries," Hanekom told the briefing by Cabinet's international co-operation, trade and security cluster.

He said existing title deeds were, in terms of existing policy, not under threat and existing land owners would not have to convert their title deeds to leaseholds.

"That is not on the table at the moment. The decision is not a threatening decision... and a 99-year lease is certainly not a disincentive to investment in South Africa."

Asked about a negative comment on the proposed ban from the head of the German Chamber of Commerce in South Africa, carried in Rapport on Sunday, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said he believed it would not affect investment by German companies.

"I guess there are foreigners from Germany who are looking to come and buy land in South Africa. They will be disappointed because I think there is a decision we have had to take which is in the interest that many more of our people, who were at a disadvantage under apartheid, have access to land.

"I am not aware that there is a big quantum of foreign investment in land coming in from Germany. I am aware that German industries are increasing their investment in South Africa and one example that I recite is that in 2014 a German company, Mercedes-Benz, made the largest investment in the motor sector in South Africa ever."

City Press reported earlier this month that one of the largest corporate holders of title deeds is German car maker Daimler, which has numerous subsidiaries in the country, among them Mercedes-Benz SA.

A spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz SA said all South African property owned by Daimler's subsidiaries were owned by locally registered companies.

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