The Grookraal matter will be heard in the Cape Town High Court tomorrow (11 April 2017). Lawyers for Human Rights (“LHR”) represents the broader Grootkraal Community which consists of the people who live and work on surrounding farms known as the Grootkraal Kombuys valley. The farm Grootkraal is right next to the Cango caves.


The Community does not live in Grootkraal, but has since 1835 used just over 4000 m2 of the farm. On this small portion, there is a building that the community uses for school during the week, church on Sundays and other community activities, including: Sing Song; Dominoes evenings; fetching mail; and a Bazaar once a year. This is the only place where the Community gets together as a group to participate in these activities, many of whom have been doing so for generations.


In 2010, there was a radical change for the Community when new owners bought the land after the previous owner passed away. The new owner then brought an application to evict the school from the land. This is supported by the Department of Education which is of the view that the school must close and merge with another school that is 35 km away from it. The Grootkraal School opposed the application and both Equal Education and the Centre for Child Law share the school’s view that it will not be in the interest of the children to be moved.


The Grootkraal Community is arguing that if a community like themselves have been using land for over 185 years, then the legal system must recognise them as an entity and one that has rights on the land, furthermore, that these rights trump that of title deed holder. In this matter the Community will ask the Court to either recognise the rights they have established through their long-standing use, or to develop the law in the context of the Constitution. The Community further seeks for the Court to register this right against the title deed. If the Community is successful, it will create an important precedent for other communities and families in rural areas who use land for an extensive period of time, but do not have formal recognition thereof. If the Community is unsuccessful, it will in effect also mean the loss of the community as an entity.


“In South Africa we have a number of narratives of land ownership. The courts need to move away from putting so much emphasis on formal ownership. This is even more evident in the Grootkraal case, where Apartheid prevented this community from obtaining any substantive legal recognition. Owners must accept that they obtain title deeds subject to a number of restrictions, such as those of the environment; issues of subdivision; water use; and pertinent to this case, people who have lived on and/or used the land for a considerable amount of years. Land is a resource which needs to serve the interests of the whole population and not only a privileged few.” – Louise du Plessis from the Land and Housing Programme, LHR.


This case is funded by Legal Aid South Africa


For more information contact Louise Du Plessis, Land and Housing Programme Manager on 082 346 0744 or Carol Mohlala, Media and Communications Manager on 079 238 9826