Cadastre: Principles and Practice

Cadastre: Principles and Practice 

By Roger Fisher and Jennifer Whittal

Cape Town: South African Geomatics Institute (SAGI)

2020 1st edition

Price R 660 (including VAT)

860 pages (soft cover)

This book on cadastral principles and practice is written as a comprehensive reference text for the practicing professional land surveyor, for lawyers, conveyancers, estate agents and others concerned with real property, and for the student of cadastral surveying, land tenure, and land administration in South Africa.

The book is sectioned into four parts. Part I explores the historical roots of tenure in the ancient world is followed by a reflection on the early development of land tenure and the cadastre in South Africa concluding with the development of the profession and professionalism.

The historical backdrop sets the scene in Part II for a discussion on land tenure, rights and administration. Land tenure and ownership are explored in terms of the types of land rights available in South Africa. A presentation of the continuum of land rights and an explanation of the intersection of human rights and land rights brings a fresh outlook that reflects the fundamentally human aspect to landholding. Thereafter current South African land policy and land reform is discussed.

Part III focuses on the legal principles of cadastral practice and defining property boundaries and associated rights in space. The book does not deal with technical issues of surveying for cadastral purposes, it concentrates on the legal framework essential to such surveys. When the professional land surveyor signs reports and cadastral documents their signature warrants that all relevant legislation, regulations and rules have been complied with, including those that determine professional action and capacity. The professional land surveyor is liable for the work undertaken.

The final chapter constitutes Part IV. It covers the development of case law in South Africa, how judicial decisions have influenced the making of land laws, the importance of the courts in interpreting the Constitution, and how this impacts current cadastral principles and practice. Reflecting not only the black letter law environment, the book speaks to the challenges and responsibilities of delivery of land interests and rights, including those registered, unregistered and unregistrable, and securing tenure today. As such, customary law, norms and practices and diverse forms of land tenure and land rights are included. The discussion of the national and international policy environment reflects the imperatives of delivery in line with the sustainable development goals and the national need for land reform. The geospatial limitation of prior texts to the surface land area of South Africa is extended in the inclusion of the offshore, airspace and underground environments.

It must be emphasized that this book should not be used in deciding on current matters of legal interpretation or to advise clients. There is an inevitable gap between writing a book and its publication, during which time laws can change. Each situation in which legal advice is required demands a detailed investigation by a legal practitioner taking into account all relevant aspects of legislation, cases and other evidence in order to give clear and professional legal opinion on the matter. This is outside of the professional land surveyor’s expertise.


  1. Introduction
  2. Cadastral development in ancient times
  3. Land tenure in the South African colonies and independent republics
  4. Development of the South African cadastre and the role of the land surveyor during the colonial period
  5. Profession and professionalism
  6. The fundamentals of land law for the professional land surveyor
  7. Land tenure and rights in land
  8. Land administration
  9. Land policy and land reform
  10. The cadastral survey
  11. Curvilinear boundaries
  12. Property in the coastal zone
  13. The high-water mark curvilinear boundary and related issues
  14. Sub-surface mineral and petroleum resource rights
  15. Seaward of the coast - sovereignity, offshore zones, rights and boundaries
  16. Case law dealing with rights and boundaries

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