Fonds BC1380 - The Richtersveld Land Claim Records

Reference code



The Richtersveld Land Claim Records


  • 2013 (Publication)
  • 1996-2005 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

100 boxes

Name of creator


Administrative history

Estab­lished in 1979, the LRC uses the law as an instru­ment of jus­tice for the vul­ner­a­ble and mar­gin­alised, includ­ing poor, home­less and land­less peo­ple. The LRC has four offices in Cape Town, Dur­ban, Gra­ham­stown and Johan­nes­burg.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Scope and content

The collection covers the period 1997 to 2005, and the papers in series A-G are arranged to reflect the chronological development of the matter. Series H is not strictly part of the land claim; in this matter the LRC negotiated on behalf of the Richtersveld community with Tanshex, a mining company, in an attempt to obtain a more equitable share of the mineral wealth generated by Transhex’s mining operations in the region. The chronological highlights of the Richtersveld land claim are given below.

December 1997
Papers are filed in a Cape High Court application for declaration of aboriginal title rights. In this action, the plaintiffs prayed for an order declaring that the Richtersveld people are entitled to the exclusive beneficial occupation and use of the subject land on the grounds that they hold aboriginal title to the land. As a first alternative, they alleged that the Richtersveld people acquired ownership of the subject land by appropriation and prayed for an order declaring that the Richtersveld people own the subject land. As a second alternative, they prayed for an order declaring that the Richtersveld people hold a public servitude over the land, acquired through vetustas, which entitles them to exclusive beneficial occupation and use. Alexkor Limited delivered a plea in which it prayed that all plaintiffs’ claims be dismissed. The Minister of Public Enterprises filed a notice that it will abide by the decision of the Cape High Court for so long as no order as to costs is sought against it.

December 1998
Papers are filed in a Land Claims Court (LCC) application under the Restitution of Land Rights Act. The plaintiff alleged that it held aboriginal title to certain land, alternatively that they had acquired a right in the land through beneficial occupation of longer than ten years, and that they were dispossessed of the land as a result of racially discriminatory laws and practices. They claimed restitution of their rights to the land under the Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994. First defendant raised defence of lis pendens and prayed that the proceedings in Land Claims Court be dismissed or stayed pending the decision in High Court action.

February to April 1999
On 22 February 1999 the LRC launched a High Court application seeking a rule nisi calling on the Respondents: to make available to the applicants copies of the documents reflecting the full terms and conditions upon which those bidders still being considered for the management contract in the First Respondent have tendered for the management contract following disclosure, the applicants to be granted leave to supplement their founding affidavits and amend their notice of motion the second Respondents is interdicted from selling or otherwise disposing of shares in the First Respondent or any undertaking to do so. The application was dismissed. In April the LCC finds in the community’s favour when Alexkor seeks a ruling that the community cannot lodge simultaneous claims in both the High Court and the LCC.

September 1999
The community loses a High Court bid to block the award to the Nabera consortium of a management contract for and shares in state diamond miner Alexkor, which is a party to the land claim.

January 2000
The community seeks a High Court ruling to obtain a copy of the management contract. The matter is postponed when the contract is amended to exclude disposal of Alexkor shares.

September 2000
The main hearing on the restitution claim begins in the LCC.

March 2001
The LCC dismisses the community’s claim on the grounds that it can not show a right to restitution or that there has been racially discriminatory dispossession. The community subsequently appeals the decision.

June 2002
The community wins a High Court application to use LCC evidence in the High Court.

February 2003
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) rules in favour of the community in its appeal against the previous dismissal of its claim in the LCC.

May 2003
The community seeks an LCC interdict to stop the privatisation of Alexkor; the privatisation is postponed by agreement.

September 2003
The Constitutional Court rules for the community when the state and Alexkor ask it to overturn the SCA decision.

April 2004
The community wins a preliminary LCC ruling that, in principle, it is entitled to claim both restoration and compensation.

April 2005
The LCC hearing on the nature and quantum of the restitution begins.

November 2005
The community wins an LCC order that the state cover the costs of its lawyers and expert witnesses. The case is postponed to 2006.

October 2006
The Richtersvelders and the state draw up a "memorandum of understanding".

April 2007
The Richtersveld Community, against the advice of the LRC, sign a settlement agreement with Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin.

September 2007
The LCC is asked to make key elements of the agreement an order of court.

October 9 2007
The LCC hands down a court order as settlement of the land claim.


System of arrangement

Conditions governing access

No restrictions apply

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

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  • English



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