Johannesburg (AFP) – South African President Jacob Zuma has proposed a law barring foreigners from buying real estate in the country under sweeping land reforms, his office said Saturday.
The reforms are aimed at rectifying inequalities that have persisted since colonial days and apartheid, with white farmers still owning most of the land, and are slated to be enacted this year. The law on foreign ownership cannot be applied retroactively, but the president's office said Saturday the government could exercise a "right of first refusal… if the land is deemed strategic."
The reform is aimed at addressing "the need to secure our limited land for food security and address the land injustice of more than 300 years of colonialism and apartheid," the statement said. In future, foreigners — who currently own some five to seven percent of South Africa's land — would be allowed only to lease property for between 30 and 50 years, and may be required to cede land considered "strategic".
A prominent realtor dismissed the bid as "a severe miscalculation that is likely to have serious repercussions on investor confidence" in South Africa. "While the percentage of foreign ownership is low, the calibre of ownership is exactly what we need in this country," said Lew Geffen of Sotheby's International Realty.
"What we are effectively saying to them is they're not welcome here."
The highly sensitive dossier evokes the spectre of the land reform programme in neighbouring Zimbabwe in the early 2000s when hundreds of white farmers were violently evicted from their land.
The government last year relaunched a claims process for black families removed from their land under apartheid rule to apply for compensation. They were given five years from June 2014 to make their claims, with as many as 400,000 requests for compensation expected at a cost of between 130 and 180 billion rand ($12-17 billion, 9-12 billion euros).
Zuma said Thursday that more than 36,000 claims had been submitted so far. The next phase will be to split up sprawling farms, limiting land ownership for "any individual" to 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) per person, and the government would purchase and "redistribute" any land in excess of the limit.
The legislation was the subject of a campaign promise ahead of Zuma's re-election in 2014. Observers say Zuma's aim is to steal thunder from his most vocal adversary, radical populist Julius Malema, who has advocated outright expropriations without compensating ejected farmers.
Zuma's cabinet must approve the proposed legislation, after which it will be put to public consultation and a parliamentary review before the president can enact it, his office said in a statement. "Environmentally and security sensitive lands… those that are of historic and have cultural significance, and strategic lands… will be classified by law, and land ownership by foreign nationals (non-citizens) in these areas will be discouraged," Saturday's statement said.
A 1913 law gave non-white residents access to only 10 percent of the country's farmland, which was subsequently revised upward to 13 percent. The rule put in place a system that still sees a majority of the best land in white hands.
Hundreds of thousands of blacks were expelled from their lands in a system that was reinforced after 1948 under apartheid. White South Africans — around 10 percent of the population — still own as much as 80 percent of the land 20 years after the end of apartheid.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.