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S. Africa to block foreigners from buying land

CAPE TOWN, South Africa--South Africa's government will forbid foreigners from buying land within five years, but will not expropriate those who already possess deeds, the land affairs minister said Wednesday.

“The principle is that foreign nationals should not own land but should have a long-lease with a minimum of 30 years,” Gugile Nkwinti, minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, told a news conference.

“It is possible that we could experience difficulties making the law retrospective on this question,” he conceded, according to the Sapa news agency.

“We are not sure that the Constitution will allow that ... It might not even be desirable.”

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) of Nelson Mandela is under pressure to reverse centuries of discrimination against the majority black population.

A key injustice is a 1913 law that restricted black land ownership to around 10 percent of the territory, and the government has struggled for years to compensate dispossessed black communities.

Vast tracts of South African land are cultivated by white commercial farmers, who at the same time contribute to the country's food security.

Foreigners currently own up to 7 percent of the land, according to official figures.

The government will table a law in parliament by the end of the year, but this probably will only affect foreigners after the end of the current administration in 2019, according to Nkwinti.

The ANC would not change the constitution to allow expropriation, he added, since the party “would rather settle for stability and progress in the country.”

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