Coastline not for sale to foreigners

Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk will release the Integrated Coastal Management Bill today, his spokesman said, in what could be South Africa's first substantial move to limit foreign access to its real estate market.

South Africa wants to reverse a trend which has seen coastal land being sold to foreigners, limiting public access to the coastline, chief government spokesman Themba Maseko said.

"South Africans could wake up one day and discover that only foreign nationals and the super-rich had access to our coastline," he said.

Rich foreign investors, many taking advantage of favourable exchange rates, are buying prime real estate and erecting barriers to protect their investments, to the chagrin of locals used to enjoying unfettered access to miles of pristine beaches.

Maseko said the new bill "may be the first legal instrument government is putting on the table as a way of opening the discussion about the sale of land to foreigners in this country."

Land ownership remains a highly emotive issue in South Africa, which more than a decade after the end of apartheid is still grappling with skewed ownership patterns, with much of the best property still in white hands.

Foreign property ownership has also been in the spotlight because of a jump in real estate prices, especially in prime holiday areas such as Cape Town where prices have surged beyond the reach of many local buyers.

While analysts say foreigners play only a marginal role in South Africa's real estate market, a government-backed panel earlier this year recommended a moratorium on all purchases and sales of property by foreigners until regulations were passed.

Land Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza rejected a moratorium after opposition parties and property associations protested. ' Reuters.

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