The Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act No. 70 of 1970 Explained: Part 2

03 May 2024 ,  Marilie Beukes 270

When considering the subdivision of agricultural land or dealing with inherited farmland that may be subject to disputes, there are several important factors to keep in mind. The Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act No. 70 of 1970 regulates the subdivision of agricultural land and elaborates on various aspects within the Act. This includes definitions relevant to the operation, actions that are excluded and prohibited by the Act, and rules governing the succession of subdivided agricultural land.

In Part 2 of our series, "Explaining the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act No. 70 of 1970," we will examine the actions prohibited in relation to the subdivision of agricultural land, including any activities that constitute such subdivision. Additionally, we will explore the available remedies for violations of these provisions.

Once again, it is emphasised that the primary purpose of The Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act No. 70 of 1970 (hereafter referred to as "the Act") is to prevent the subdivision of farming units or their creation when such units are not economically viable. This objective is essentially achieved through the Act as the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development of South Africa has to give his or her consent before any subdivision may lawfully be effected.1

The first three actions, which are prohibited by the Act, are: agricultural land may not be subdivided; no undivided share in agricultural land shall vest in any other person if such undivided share is not already held by a person; and no part of such undivided share in agricultural land shall vest in any other person if such part is not yet held by another person.2

The fourth action, which is prohibited, concerns the leasing of agricultural land and the renewal of such lease. The Act states that no one may enter into a lease for which the period of such lease is 10 years or longer. Neither may the length of the lease be the natural life of the lessee and/or the life of any other mentioned person in such lease. Further actions that are prohibited surrounding the leasing of agricultural land by the lessee, are the renewal of such lease either by continuation of the original lease or by entering into a new lease and such continued and/or renewed lease being for an indefinite period or for the combined period of 10 years.3

The following actions are prohibited by the Act, except where such actions relate to the purposes of a mine as defined in section 1 of the Mines and Works Act.4 These actions include the selling or advertising for the sale of a portion of agricultural land, whether or not the latter is surveyed or contains any building thereon. Additionally, the sale or granting of a right to such a portion is prohibited if it extends for more than 10 years, lasts for the lifetime of any individual, or is granted to the same person in consecutive periods totalling more than 10 years.5

Section 3(f) of the Act states that no area of jurisdiction, local area, development area, peri-urban area or other area referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the definition of “agricultural land” in section 1 of the Act, shall be established on, or enlarged to include any agricultural land.

Lastly, it is necessary to provide public notice when a plan concerning agricultural land, or any part of it, has been submitted or prepared under the relevant ordinance.

Therefore, if a person finds themselves in a situation where they are involved in the subdivision of agricultural land that aligns with any of the scenarios described above, such activities will be prohibited under the Act and deemed null and void. This means that such actions will need the prior consent of the Minister in order to comply with the Act. 

In part 3 of the series on “The Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act No. 70 of 1970 Explained”, we shall look at the procedure on how to apply for consent as required by the Minister. This will include the imposition, enforcement, or withdrawal of conditions by him or her, as well as any miscellaneous provisions.

1. T Sewapa “Subdivison of Agricultural Farmland” 2016 p 1.
2. Section 3(a)-(c) of the Act.
3. Section 3(d) of the Act.
4. No. 27 of 1956.
5. Section 3(e)(i)-(ii) of the Act.

Marilie Beukes is a candidate attorney at Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys.

While every reasonable effort is taken to ensure the accuracy and soundness of the contents of this publication, neither the writers of the articles nor the publisher will bear any responsibility for the consequences of any actions based on information or recommendations contained herein. Our material is for informational purposes. 

Related Expertise: Property Transfer