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Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill recently released

Some of the concerns identified regarding the Bill include:

  • The reference in the Bill to concepts of an "offer" and "a right of first refusal" may result in confusion. The Bill purports to attempt to grant the Minister a right of first refusal but places an obligation on a foreign owner to "offer" the right of first refusal to the Minister. In our view, it would be preferable if the Minister were rather granted a clear legislative right of first refusal;
  • It is unclear whether a sale agreement subject to a suspensive condition and the sale of controlling interest in a juristic owner of land, would be regarded as acquisitions of ownership which would trigger a requirement to notify the transaction to the Land Commission;
  • The Bill does not adequately deal with leases in favour of foreign persons  with lease periods below 30 years and in excess of 50 years which would ordinarily be capable of registration at the Deeds Office in terms of the Deeds Registries Act 47 of 1937; and
  • The Bill attempts to categorise agricultural land as (a) land that falls within the ceilings of capped or ceiling ownership requirements; and (b) redistribution agricultural land, which is the land in excess of the capped ownership requirements. The current wording of the Bill appears to provide the Minister with both a legislative obligation to purchase the redistribution agricultural land as well as the discretion to refuse to buy agricultural land, which would include redistribution agricultural land. As such, it would seem that the Minister has both a compulsory obligation as well as a voluntary obligation to purchase redistribution agricultural land.