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South Africa can be proud of its cadastre


The following report appeared on 16 March 2019 in the English version of the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

Greece, the only European country without a proper register of land ownership, is confident it will finally have one in place by 2021 after spending hundreds of millions of euros on a project that began more than 20 years ago. The lack of a complete record of property ownership across the country is a major barrier to investment, proper taxation and growth. It was once a buzzword for the bureaucratic morass of Greece, which was forced to request three international bailouts from 2010 to 2015 totalling 280 billion euros to stay afloat. On Wednesday, the country opened its biggest land registry office in Athens, home to nearly half of the Greek population. The government hopes the new centre will help speed up the process to compile a nationwide database as Athens residents will be able to register their assets in rural Greece without having to travel outside the capital. The new registry is a 3 000 m² cavernous office complex to the north of Athens with a green metal roof that was built to host gymnastics events at the 2004 Olympics. Staff at the new centre and in smaller offices outside the capital aim to establish an electronic database that will cover the whole country by 2021, a deadline agreed with Greece’s foreign creditors. Concluding the project has been a condition of each of Athens’s three bailouts, the last of which expired last August. (Reuters)

Compare this to South Africa:

On 21 February 1657, Jan van Riebeeck took the first nine vrijburgers (free burghers) to the valley of the Liesbeek to choose farm locations. Pieter Potter, from Holland, surveyed the parcels and is recognized as the father of the profession of land surveying in South Africa.

There can be little doubt that the survey profession has played a pivotal role in the development of South Africa from the time Potter was appointed the first sworn land surveyor by the VOC (Dutch East India Company). He demarcated boundaries of land parcels, placed beacons, provided numerical data for diagrams for registration and prepared maps.

As a valuer, I cannot imagine how a property market and economy can function without a reliable cadastre. After the Dutch came the Brits, and the result is a reliable cadastre that makes us all proud. Let’s drink to this!

Koos Landman et al., “The establishment of the early scholarship of professional and technical surveying education in South Africa for the period 1657 to 1929”, SA Journal of Geomatics, vol. 6 no. 1, April 2017.
Written by Erwin Rode – erwin@rode.co.za – 021 946 2480