Historically disadvantaged Karoo residents have been vindicated by a landmark SCA judgment which found they have a right to access land their ancestors first occupied more than 200 years ago, says a Cape Times report.

Rural labourers and schoolchildren in Grootkraal, Oudtshoorn, were confronted with losing the land after Kobot Business Trust bought it in 2010, and decided to develop the land into a game farm for commercial purposes.

Central to the SCA decision is a church, built on the land for coloured farmworkers in the 1800s, which today also serves as a school for 202 pupils. The SCA declared residents, being all the families and individuals who live and work on farms in the valley, have the right, in the form of a public servitude, to use and occupy the property.

It also ordered the Kobot Business Trust to pay the costs.

The fact that successive owners of the property at no stage stepped in to prevent the church from operating, or asserted that it was operating unlawfully, is an indication that this occurred lawfully,’ the SCA found.

Lawyers for Human Rights has hailed the judgment as groundbreaking, and said it paves the way for other historically disadvantaged communities who have used private land for a significant time to be allowed to register this use against the title deed.

Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)

Community of Grootkraal v Kobot Business Trust