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‘Race and sex’ shock for property owners

Posted On Tuesday, 04 September 2007 02:00 Published by
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A government-commissioned report on foreign land ownership yesterday proposed the compulsory disclosure of the race, gender and nationality of all buyers along the lines of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act

The long-awaited report on foreign land ownership said disclosure should apply to all past, present and future registrations of property titles, and that this should apply to all title holders, foreign as well as South African.

The report said the object of the regulation would be for “disclosure and statistical purposes and not for effecting any unfair discrimination”.

Opposition parties have rejected the panel’s findings as overregulation and racist.

The report, which has been presented to Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana, has not yet been released for public comment, though land affairs officials expected this to happen soon. It follows a two-year investigation of public policy regarding foreign land ownership and was done by a panel of academics, members of the judiciary and public policy makers, chaired by constitutional law expert Prof Shadrack Gutto.

The panel further recommended a limited, two-year moratorium on the sale of state land to foreigners as well as to South African citizens who do not qualify for redress under the government’s land reform policies. It also recommended that measures be taken against “fronting”.

The report said that the moratorium was not meant to be a blanket prohibition, but that it was intended to prevent the disposal of state land, including municipal land, that might be used for land reform and human settlements for dispossessed and marginalised people.

The panel’s legal counsel advised it that the temporary moratorium would not be unconstitutional provided it did not lead to arbitrary deprivation of property and that it was imposed through a general law of application.

Because of the limitations imposed on foreign land ownership, the panel recommended a refinement of what constituted a foreign owner. For corporations, it proposed lowering the 50%-plus-1% shareholding. It recommended a similar definition for trusts and partnerships.

It recommended, however, that in light of the long-term objectives of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), citizens from the region should either be exempted or be given preferential treatment.

Democratic Alliance land affairs spokesman Maans Nel said the recommended regulations were laughable and blatantly racist.

It was incomprehensible why the race of a foreigner would be significant in the ownership of land in SA other than for a racist purpose. T he idea that such regulation would not affect foreign investment was “absolute nonsense”.

Pieter Groenewald, of the Freedom Front Plus , said regulating foreign land ownership would be acceptable, but making race an issue was unacceptable.

Publisher: Business Day
Source: Business Day
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