Notes: ‘They’re not making land anymore’: A reading of the social function of property in Adonisi

Author: Thomas Coggin

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 138 Issue 4, p. 697-715


In the Western Cape High Court decision of Adonisi, Gamble J framed the prevalence of well-located land scarcity in Cape Town with the phrase, ‘they’re not making land anymore’. In this case note, I present the court’s findings and reasoning in ruling against the Western Cape Provincial Government, and I argue we can read the judgment as an expression of the social function of property through two lenses: first, the manner in which the court situated the dispute within the spatial and historical geography of Cape Town; and, secondly, the way in which it prefaced the use value of property through its emphasis on meaningful participation and on custodianship. Both lenses indicated the duty incumbent on the province as landowner and in service of its obligations under s 25(5) of the Constitution, which are important when resolving similar disputes given the scarred ownership landscape characterising the South African urban and spatial environment.