The South African system of land surveying is equal to the best
in the world. The country's cadastre, or parcel-based land information
system, is highly accurate. Boundaries in surveyed areas are secure
and property co-ordinates are recorded in a national reference
system. The goal of this paper is to list a few important problems
that the South African cadastre is confronted with. Firstly, there
is problem with receiving consents for survey, secondly the incorporation
of permission to occupy (PTO's) in the South African cadastre
and lastly the different ordinances for consent approval between
the different provinces.
The South African cadastre has become used by buyers, with time
and money available for the myriad bureaucratic and legal procedures
that back up a state-of-the-art system, and has been criticised
for being inappropriate to a rapidly urbanising society. A cadastre
serves a country's resource management; the raising of rates and
taxes; and the underpinning of an economy in regards to bonds,
loans and whatever form investments take. A range of national
institutions form part of the relationship between an individual
and his or her land. Some of these institutions are central and/or
regional governments, the judiciary, the Receiver of Revenue and/or
local government rates department, the various planning and environmental
bodies and financial institutions - both public and private.
Land surveyors trigger, but don't create, time-consuming administrative
procedures. Obtaining reliable co-ordinates and measuring a property
can be done very quickly. However, before this can be done, what
are known as 'subdivisional consents' have to be obtained. Permission
to subdivide land, both in rural and urban areas, has to be obtained
from a range of authorities for a variety of reasons. A land surveyor
has to obtain the consent of dozens of bodies before the land
can be subdivided.
The procedure is extremely time consuming, but no subdivision
can take place legally until permission is obtained from all the
relevant authorities. Complicating matters further is the fact
that procedures vary from province to province and also from municipality
The second problem is the accommodation or upgrading of PTO's
into the South African cadastre. The upgrading of land tenure
of PTO's is ideologically divided into two opposing factions -
those supporting the upgrading of land tenure in the form of individual
rights (freehold) and those strongly against it (communal). Between
these two extremes, a number of positions may be taken - some
leaning towards the freehold option and others leaning more towards
retaining the existing 'communal' tenure system.
Those that support freehold as land tenure option have used economic
reasons for their view. According to the International Labour
Organisation they are of the opinion that radical land reform
is the quickest way to reduce poverty. Other economic arguments
used by the supporters of freehold, include the following:
- Freehold is considered to bring about agglomeration of the
present small and uneconomic parcels of land into economically
- Freehold permits rational capitalisation, since sufficient
land is accumulated to make it feasible, and since freehold
land can be mortgaged to secure capital.
- Freehold increases productivity and stability.
Another argument often advanced in support of the freehold option
is an ecological one. This argument pays attention to the poor
state of the ecology in areas of 'communal' land tenure systems.
This argument is that private ownership would prevent the degeneration
of valuable land and resources as it places more responsibility
on the individual.
Those against freehold also use economic reasons for opposing
it. According to these arguments, the danger inherent in the upgrading
of land tenure is that it might precipitate a rapidly rising price
spiral in local land markets. This might result in land which
should have gone to the poor falling into the hands of people
or institutions in the core economy, with people selling their
land to obtain cash, leading to large-scale dispossession. The
Department of Land Affairs argue that the advantage of 'communal'
land is that such land provides the poor with free or very cheap
access to land. Furthermore, the social structure which accompanies
'communal' ownership also functions as an important safeguard
for the survival of the poor.
To use one example for a particular province in South Africa,
the Surveyor-General: Bloemfontein is currently capturing all
the PTO's documents, alpha-numerically of Phutaditjhaba and Thaba
'Nchu. The reason for capturing these PTO documents is to simplify
enquiries at the public counter. This is also happening in other
provinces like Western Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the future
the PTO's would be upgraded to some acceptable system for all
The third problem is the fact that there is vast differences
in the ordinances between the various provinces, which results
in different survey procedures that is been applied throughout
the different Surveyor General's offices. This results in confusion
for the land surveyors, conveyancers and general public. For example,
the Free State ordinance give power to the townships board, concerning
the approval of consents of sub-division, etc., which results
in no power to the municipalities and the people on the ground.
This results in a lot of Sectional Title plans being created,
which is much more costly than subdivisions, to overcome the problems
of properties which had to be subdivided. The Northern Cape ordinances
give power to the individual local authorities to approve subdivision.