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  • Reportable: Yes / NoCirculate to Judges: Yes /

    NoCirculate to Magistrates: Yes / No

    IN THE HIGH COURT OF SOUTH AFRICA(NorthernCapeDivision)

    Caseno: 299\05Dateheard: 20050902Datedelivered: 20050909

    Inthematterof:

    DIAMONDCOREMINING&OPERATION(PTY)LTD APPLICANT

    versus

    ALETTAHENDRINAVANDEVENTERN.O. 1STRESPONDENT

    JOHANNESFREDERICKVANDEVENTERN.O. 2NDRESPONDENT

    CHRISTOFFELARNOLDUSVANDEVENTERN.O. 3RDRESPONDENT

    MARIANAVANDEVENTERN.O. 4THRESPONDENT

    Coram:MAJIEDTJ

    JUDGEMENT

    MAJIEDT J:

    1. In this opposed application the applicant seeks relief which is

    based largelyuponthe mandamentvanspolie. Theapplicants

    case is premised on an alleged peaceful and undisturbed

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    possessionof:

    a) therighttodrawwaterfromtheVaalRiveradjacenttothe

    respondentsproperty;

    b) therighttodrawwaterovertherespondentsproperty;

    c) apipelinewhichithadinstalledovertherespondentsproperty.It is the applicants case that it has been spoliated of the

    aforementionedpossessionbytherespondentsbyvirtueofbeing

    wrongfullydispossessedthereof.

    2. Inessencetherespondents defenceonthepapers isoneofa

    denial that the applicant had been in peaceful and undisturbed

    possession.Inadditiontotheaforegoing,certainfurtherdefences

    in law were raised in the heads of argument on behalf of the

    respondents,namely:

    a) thattheapplicanthasdelayedformorethanayeartolaunch

    this application and should therefore show special

    circumstances justifying such delay before the application

    canbeconsidered;

    b) thatanorderbasedonthemandamentvanspoliewouldhavenopracticaleffect;c) thatanyservitudewhichmayhaveexistedhadlapsedduetotheabandonmentthereofbytheapplicantoritspredecessorintitle.4.1 Thefactshereinarefairlysimpleandaremostlycommoncause

    between the parties. The applicant carries on business as a

    Judgement:DiamondCoreMiningvVanDeventerandothersCaseno.:299\05

    MAJIEDTJ

    2

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    diamondminingandexplorationcompanyand,althoughthishas

    been to some extent disputed, it can be accepted that the

    applicantisthesuccessortoacompanyknownas MazalMining

    (Pty)LtdhavingundergoneanamechangeduringFebruary2003.

    In this judgement any reference to the applicant includes the

    presentapplicantaswellasitspredecessor,MazalMining.

    4.2 TherespondentsarethetrusteesoftheDeBadTrustwhichistheregisteredownerofthefarmDeBad,no.155.Theapplicantistheregisteredownerofportion18(aportionofportion17)ofthefarmPaardebergEastandtheapplicantalsoownsthemineralrightsinrespectofitsaforementionedproperty.4.3 Theapplicanthasestablishedadiamondprocessingandsortingplantonitsaforementionedproperty.ThisplantrequireslargeamountsofwaterforitsoperationandsuchwaterwasbeingdrawnfromtheVaalRiver,whichisapproximatelysome18kilometresfromtheapplicantsaforementionedplant.4.4 TherespondentspropertyasaforementionedisadjacenttotheVaalRiverandinordertoconveywaterfromtherivertoitsproperty,theapplicanthadlaidawaterpipelineovertherespondentsaforementionedpropertyaswellastwootherpropertiesbelongingtoathirdpartyinordertoreachtheapplicantsplant.Therequisiteconsentwasobtainedbytheapplicantfromtherespectivepropertyownersfortheinstallationofthepipelineovertheirland.4.5 TheapplicanthadreceivedpermissionfromthelateMr.VanDeventer,thedeceasedspouseofthefirstrespondent,toinstallthepipelineovertherespondentsproperty.Ingrantingsuchconsent,thelateMr.VanDeventerhadrepresentedtheaforementionedDeBadTrust.4.6 TheapplicanthadalsoreceivedtherequisitegovernmentapprovaltodrawwaterfromtheVaalRiverintermsofsection28AoftheEnvironmentConservationAct,73of1989.4.7 Thepipelinewhichtheapplicanthadconstructedransome7.296kilometresfromtheVaalRiverovertherespondentspropertyanda

    Judgement:DiamondCoreMiningvVanDeventerandothersCaseno.:299\05

    MAJIEDTJ

    3

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    further11.3kilometresovertheothertwofarmsownedbyoneDuToitandhiswife,knownasUitkyk,toreachtheapplicantsdiamondandprocessingplantonitsfarmPaardebergEast.5. Itisfurthercommoncausethattherehadbeenanexistingpipeline

    whichbelongedtotherespondentsandwhichtheyhadutilisedfor

    their farming operations. As was agreed further between the

    parties,awaterretentiondamwasconstructedbytheapplicanton

    the respondents property where the aforementioned existing

    pipelineterminated.Thisdamwasforthejointuseoftheapplicant

    andtherespondents. WaterwasconveyedfromtheVaalRiver

    alongthisexistingpipelinetotheretentiondamwhichhadbeen

    constructedbyapplicant. Theapplicanthadthenlaiditspipeline

    fromthewaterretentiondamtowardsitsownpropertyacrossthe

    respondentspropertyandovertheadjacentfarmUitkyk.Itisalso

    furthercommoncausethatbyagreementbetweentheparties,the

    newpipeline which was constructed by the applicant contained

    threeabstractionpointsbetweenthewaterretentiondamandthe

    extreme boundary of respondents property from which 10000

    litresofwaterperabstractionpointperdaycouldbedrawnbythe

    respondentsfortheirownusage.

    6. In accordance with the agreement mentioned hereinbefore, the

    applicantconstructedawaterretentiondamontherespondents

    property in and during 2000 and thereafter constructed the

    pipeline. SubsequenttothedeathofthelateMr.VanDeventer

    duringDecember2002,hiswidowthe first respondent, together

    Judgement:DiamondCoreMiningvVanDeventerandothersCaseno.:299\05

    MAJIEDTJ

    4

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    with theother respondentsmanaged therunningof the farming

    operations on the respondents property. During approximately

    April2003theapplicanthadceaseditsoperationsatitsdiamond

    miningandprocessingplantatPaardebergEast. Theapplicant

    aversthatthiswasonlyatemporarycessationofactivitiespending

    arestructuringandreorganizationoftheapplicantanditsmining

    operations. A labourer in theemployof the applicant who, by

    consent of the respondents, had resided on the respondents

    propertywithaviewtosupervisingandmaintainingthepipeline,

    was also withdrawn from the respondents farm during

    approximatelyApril2003.

    7. Therespondentsinterpretedtheaforementionedwithdrawalofthe

    applicantslabourerandthecessationofitsactivitiesatitsmining

    operations together with the fact that, according to the first

    respondents answering affidavit, they were not able to make

    contactwiththeapplicant, tomeanthat thepreviousagreement

    between the respondents (represented by the late Mr. Van

    Deventer)andtheapplicantspredecessor,MazalMining(Pty)Ltd,

    hadlapsed.Therespondentsaverfurtherthatduetothislapseof

    theagreement,allthewaterpipes,pumpsandotheraccessories

    erectedby theapplicanthadbyagreementbetweentheparties

    become the property of the respondents in their capacities as

    trusteesoftheDeBadTrust.

    8. TherespondentsconcludeintheiransweringaffidavitthatMazal,

    Judgement:DiamondCoreMiningvVanDeventerandothersCaseno.:299\05

    MAJIEDTJ

    5

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    aspredecessoroftheapplicant,hadsinceApril2003notbeenin

    peacefulandundisturbedpossessionofanyofthepipes,pumpsor

    anyotheraccessoriesontherespondentsfarm.

    9.1 Itisconvenienttodealfirstlywiththeaspectofdelayinbringing

    thisapplicationasraisedbyMr.VanRhynfortherespondentsin

    hisheadsofargument.

    9.2 Itissettledlawthatthereisacommonlawrulewhichisusedasa

    guide to theeffect that anapplicant must launchanapplication

    based on the mandament van spolie within a year, otherwise

    specialcircumstancesmustbeshownbeforesuchanapplication

    canbeproceededwith.

    Seeinthisregard: LeRichevPSPPropertiesCCandothers

    2005(3)SA189(C)at198EF(par.25)andat203CE(par.43).

    9.3 OnbehalfontherespondentsMr.VanRhynhassubmittedthatthe

    applicanthadceasedtheusageorpossessionofthepipelinesince

    April2003andthataperiodofmorethantwoyearshasalready

    elapsed before this application was launched. It was also

    submitted that theapplicantsaforementioned failure tobringan

    applicationwithinoneyearoftheallegeddispossessionmustlead

    toaninferencethatithasabidedinthedispossession.

    See:CGVanderMerweSakereg2ndeditionat147.

    9.4 Inmyviewthere isnomerit inthiscontention. Inthefounding

    Judgement:DiamondCoreMiningvVanDeventerandothersCaseno.:299\05

    MAJIEDTJ

    6

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    affidavitonbehalfoftheapplicant,Botoulas,whoisitsmanaging

    director, makes the averment that the pipeline had last been

    inspectedduringthefinalquarterof2003byitsminemanager,a

    Mr.Swanepoelandbyanengineerwhohadinstalledthepipeline,

    aMr.Mynhardt. Duringthatinspectionthepipelinewasfoundto

    be intact. At this stage the applicant had already temporarily

    suspendeditsoperationsatthePaardebergEastplant,according

    toBotoulas.ItisfurtherallegedbyBotoulasthattheapplicantonly

    becameawareduring26October2004throughanotherinspection

    that the pipeline had been removed by the respondents.

    Consequently, so the applicant avers, it has launched the

    applicationwithinaperiodofoneyearofbecomingawareofthe

    dispossession (the notice of motion was issuedon 30th March

    2005). On behalf on the respondents, Mr. Van Rhyn has

    countered this contention by pointing out that any failure to

    discover the dispossession earlier, was entirely the fault of the

    applicant,havingabandoneditsoperationsatPaardebergEast.It

    is, however, important to point out that in response to the

    aforemen

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