MPs clash on land race issue

Waghied Misbach

Waghied Misbach

MPs clashed in parliament yesterday over the contentious issues of foreign and white ownership of land in South Africa.

Some MPs argued that the country was returning to race-based classifications of land ownership while other MPs defended plans to determine how much land whites and foreigners owned.

The heated debate took place during a briefing by Land Affairs Department official Sipho Sibanda on the foreign land ownership report completed earlier this year. Sibanda pointed out that the panel of experts who drew up the report called for a possible ban on the sale of land to foreigners for a period of time. This was to prevent an escalation in prices of homes and land which would exclude access for poorer South Africans. MPs heard that foreigners owned between 1percent and 3percent of land in this country. But it was still unclear how much land was owned by corporates and whether these companies were registered in the name of whites.

The ANC's Patekile Holomisa said that foreign ownership of South African land impacts on prices and "interferes with land redistribution".

"While we know that 13percent of land has been set aside for blacks, we do not know the extent of land owned privately or by corporates. So if 13percent was set aside for blacks, then the rest must be owned by whites. The imbalance must be addressed," he said.

Holomisa rejected arguments from opposition MPs, including the DA, that calling for a disclosure of the race of the person owning land was reverse racism.