South Africa – The great foreign land debate

Property Ownership for Immigrants
Property Ownership for Immigrants

Much has been said over the last 2 years regarding the ownership of land by foreign nationals in South Africa and as usual the rumour mills have been running overtime.

Many countries impose some sort of restriction or additional taxes on foreign land ownership and these include some of Canada’s provinces, Australia, Switzerland, China and Thailand – to name but a few. (

Of course governments, including South Africa’s, wish to ensure they remain attractive to foreign investors but it is naive to think that they do not have to tread a thin balancing act.

A recent article (as above) refers to the Global land grab and we quote “Internationally, some of the most heated debate around foreign ownership of real estate in recent years has had to do not with urban or oceanfront properties but with farmland.

The global land grab, as it’s sometimes called, has seen governments and multinational agribusinesses from China, Saudi Arabia, India and elsewhere quietly buying up arable land across the African continent and in countries as far flung as Indonesia, Australia and Argentina.”

In South Africa of course sea front property and land also remains in the news due to its international appeal, and the failure of the land retribution targets further complicates the land ownership issue.

So what do we know so far? – the details are not that clear and many industry players are asking for clarity, but from the recent press quoting the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti, the following points have come out:

Under the new land tenure system proposal, state and public land will be available on leasehold, while private land will be available as freehold with limited extent and communal tenure through institutionalised use-rights.

Nkwinti said for now the focus would be on restricting agricultural land owned by foreigners.
If the proposal is approved, foreigners will only be permitted to lease land on a long-lease basis for a minimum of 30 years, Nkwinti said, although this could grow to 50 or 99 year leaseholds.

Permanent residents would be treated as free-hold holders with limited extent.

So we await more details, but from the above, the conclusion can be drawn that it is land that is the first priority and the fair distribution of such land amongst the population.

Property Ownership for Immigrants

What may be important going forward is the persons status in South Africa, Nkwinti is quoted as saying permanent residency holders would be treated as freeholders. There are still a large number of swallows (living here for part of the year) and temporary residents that would qualify for permanent residency. The smart move is therefore to get your eligibility accessed and where possible make an application for your permanent residency.

Intergate offers a free assessment and is happy to talk you through the qualifying criteria – simply e-mail us here, visit is on, or telephone Cape Town 021 4242460 or Johannesburg 011 234 4275.