South African President Jacob Zuma
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma.Reuters

South African president Jacob Zuma has announced that foreigners can no longer own land in the country, as the ANC government goes ahead with its pilot land reform programme.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament, Zuma said foreign nationals will be barred from owning land in the country, but they will be allowed to enter into long-term lease contracts.

Foreigners currently own an estimated 7% of land in South Africa.

"In this regard, the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill will be submitted to Parliament this year," Zuma said in the National Assembly.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) had long been suggesting to end foreign ownership of agricultural land due to concerns the country is losing control of its own food security.

The country opened the second window for lodging land claims in 2014 as part of its land reforms. Now more than 36,000 land claims have been launched nationally. The cut-off date was 2019.

"We are also exploring the fifty/fifty policy framework, which proposes relative rights for people who live and work on farms. Fifty farming enterprises will be identified as a pilot project," he said.

As per the new proposed laws, a ceiling will be set on 12, 000 hectares for locals to own farm land, according to Zuma. In addition, the land reform programme will allocate more than 90,000 hectares of land to smallhold farmers, farm dwellers and labour tenants.

"The process of establishing the office of the valuer-general is underway, which is established in terms of the Property Valuation Act," Zuma said.

"Once implemented, the law will stop the reliance on the willing-buyer, willing-seller method in respect of land acquisition by the state."