In light of the recent call from the African National Congress(ANC) for land ownership restrictions, the South African Property Owners Association ( SAPOA) has raised concerns, particularly in relation to food security, the importance of foreign investments, instability and restrictions relating to ownership.
Following its policy Lekgotla, the ANC said that foreign nationals should not be allowed to own land in South Africa. Furthermore, it also decided that there should be a ceiling on the amount of land any one person or company should be allowed to own.
ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe commented, “The Lekgotla has resolved that there should be a ceiling on land ownership and that is a maximum of 12,000 hectares of land or two farms for all legal persons.”
Mantashe added that they want government to speed up land reform programmes and that the proposal will have to be tested to see if it can pass constitutional muster. As the representative body and official voice of the commercial and industrial property industry in South Africa, SAPOA poses several concerns regarding the government’s proposed land reforms.
The Head of Policy Research at the Institute for Race Relations, Anthea Jeffrey, recently provided comment on some proposed unintended consequences of the ANC’s land proposals, highlighting that the ANC’s claims overlook three crucial considerations: most people don’t want land to farm; land reform projects have failed in the past and that the proposal undermines property rights.
SAPOA agrees with some of the sentiments expressed by Jeffrey, most notably with her third consideration: property rights.
According to Jeffrey, property rights are the key to individual prosperity as well as to political and economic independence from the state. Without secure property rights, South Africa cannot generate the investment or the economic growth needed to overcome the jobless crisis.
“SAPOA supports a land reform process that is a “win-win” scenario, in which the rights of present and future landowners are protected,” says Neil Gopal, Chief Executive Officer of SAPOA.
“A key challenge facing South Africa is how to reverse the racial inequalities in land resulting from our colonial past and the violent dispossession of indigenous people off their land. We need more clarity and debate on the factors responsible for the slow pace of land reform,” he adds.
“Are there fundamental contradictions between the protection of private property, the willing-buyer-willing-seller principle and the property clause in the South African Constitution?” queries Gopal.
“We understand that the country cannot afford to protect private property with such zeal that it entrenches privilege. This is a recipe for instability. The guarantee of private ownership as well as addressing the ills of the past (with regards to property) is fundamental to a stable democracy,” he concludes.