ANC Warns 'Absentee Landlords', Foreign Speculators

THE African National Congress (ANC) yesterday said it was not against foreign investors buying land for residential purposes, but called for a review of foreign owned farmland lying furlough.

The party's calls came amid debate on land ownership in the country and an increase in the number of farm labourers and tenants being evicted from farms. This, it said, was despite large pieces of land lying idle and owned by foreigners.

Land Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza sparked the debate a few weeks ago calling for a review of property rights of foreign investors.

ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe said yesterday during a briefing on the party national executive committee meeting held at the weekend, that the party was not opposed to foreigners who bought land in SA for purposes of investments and job creation.

Motlanthe said, however, that this should be treated separately from the old problem of "absentee landlord s ".

"These people buy land for the purposes of future speculation. The land is not used to benefit the country and its people," said Motlanthe.

SA's property prices climbed an average 25,1% in the year to June, accelerating from 23,4% the previous year, spurred partly by foreign buying, particularly in coastal areas.

But the ANC said it was more concerned by the ownership of rural and farm land.

Spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said most municipalities found themselves with a lot of foreignowned unused land, which they could not use to stimulate local economies and create jobs.

"We have to come up with some form of regulations. You cannot have it both ways as a foreigner.

"There are certain categories of legislation that affect this," said Ngonyama.

University of Western Cape land expert Prof Ben Cousins said that for SA to formulate a policy on foreign land ownership it needed to have statistics on the phenomenon.

"It is possible that it (foreign ownership of land) is exaggerated," said Cousins.

Land affairs spokeswoman Nana Zenani said yesterday that the department would know the scale of foreign land ownership in the country only once the current land audit had been completed.

Article By:Sphiwe Mboyane - www.allafrica.com