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January 17, 2011

South African union welcomes proposal to limit foreign land ownership

by Hopewell Radebe

Nehawu has called on President Jacob Zuma "to show courage and decisive leadership" by limiting or banning foreign land ownership in South Africa following the ANC’s January 8th statement in which the party announced plans to restrict foreign land ownership to leasehold.

The National Education Health & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said these measures will help fast track land reform and restitution in order to develop rural economy.

"The lack of government’s clear and unambiguous position regarding land reform and restitution in SA is something that needs urgent attention considering the high poverty levels in this country," said Sizwe Pamla, union’s media liaison officer.

The union said in a statement this morning that SA needed to guard against putting a "for sale" sign on this country’s most valuable assert by allowing "foreign land ownership when we can lease the land to those who want to invest in our country".

Organised agriculture warned on Monday against Mr Zuma’s statement saying the ANC was tinkering with property rights at SA’s peril and challenged the government to speed up land reform and allow the private sector to play a more prominent role.

Zuma used the Polokwane rally where the party celebrated its 99th year in existence to revive the state’s controversial plan to limit foreign ownership of land, an initiative that stalled after a government probe in 2006 found that only about 5% of land in SA was foreign owned. The plan was shelved after an uproar from analysts and local real estate agents who warned that it would send the wrong signal to investors.

The union said it was totally unacceptable that after seventeen years since the fall of apartheid, SA had only handed over "an abysmal 6% to the previously landless communities". "Our government has been held to ransom by white landowners and political parties whose narrow vision for this country is still blurred racial prejudice and economic self interest," Mr Pamla said.

The union said current landowners would prefer that land reform and restitution to be deferred indefinitely hence their opposition to the concept of expropriation, even if it is done within the ambitof the law.

The union urged the government to extricate the rural poor from the cycle of poverty by ensuring that they have access to land, training and resources in order to practice both subsistence and commercial farming. It said landlessness was being exacerbated by capitalists who were buying what was traditionally farming land to build golf courses and other luxuries at the expense of the poor. It said that unguarded land acquisition policy was resulting in the displacements of the indigenous people.

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