Application to subdivide land in Wupperthal withdrawn

Natural Justice is pleased to announce that the Moravian Church’s application for subdivision of a portion of land in Wupperthal, known as Farm 168, Clanwilliam, located in the Cederberg Region of South Africa, has been withdrawn by the applicant, the local Moravian Church. 

Natural Justice supported the local community to file an objection to the proposed subdivision. Although the reasons as to why the subdivision application was withdrawn have not been made public, Natural Justice considers the withdrawal a victory for the small community, who have utilised the land in a communal way for many generations. The community are descendants of the Khoikhoi rooibos farmers, who originally inhabited this land before settlers arrived in the area. In 1830, the Rhenish Mission Society took over the land, and later transferred it to the Moravian Church.

The application of subdivision process to date:

  • 29 May 2023:  The Moravian Church made an application for subdivision.
  • 21 July 2023: The application for subdivision was opened for public comment
  • 21 August 2023: Natural Justice filed an objection to the application on behalf of Wupperthal Community
  • 15 February 2023: application was withdrawn. The Cederberg municipality accepted the notice of withdrawal on the same day and closed the matter.

An affidavit submitted by Barend Salomo provides more context as to why the community lodged an objection to the subdivision. Salomo is a rooibos tea farmer and chairperson of the Wupperthal Community Support Group (WCSG).

According to the affidavit:

  • The subdivision only related to a portion of Wupperthal. It would result in individual title being given to each residence – which is not the desire of the community. The community desire communal ownership of Farm 168, Clanwilliam. This will be the only way for the community to get redress to the loss of their land that occurred as a result of racial laws that prohibited them from owning land and to continue with their heritage, traditions and culture.
  • The Moravian church’s leadership had overstepped its role as custodians of the land by bringing the application, therefore rendering the application for subdivision “undesirable”, as it stands in contrary to the community’s decision to obtain communal ownership of the land for the benefit of all Wupperthal residents.
  • The proposed subdivision failed to provide a sustainable solution to the issue of ownership of land, not only regarding the residential units but also for the remainder of Wupperthal falling outside the residential areas.
  • It should be rejected on the basis that the church had not consulted with the community before making the decision on what action to take regarding the community’s security of tenure on Wupperthal land.

As a community we are entitled to give free prior and informed consent to any matters that affect our rights to the land.”


Wupperthal lies at the heart of South Africa’s largest population of wildly grown Rooibos. The Cederberg region is the only place in the world where Rooibos can grow. The Wupperthal community has been stewarding this precious resource for generations. They are part of the struggle of the Khoikhoi and San communities to get recognition as the traditional knowledge holders to this unique resource. In 2019, an agreement was signed for all Khoikhoi and San Indigenous people in South Africa to benefit from the production of rooibos due to their status as knowledge holders. This is currently the only industry-wide agreement in the world, developed as part of the Access and Benefit Sharing provisions under the in Nagoya Protocol of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

Biocultural Community Protocol

  • In 2019, Natural Justice assisted the Wupperthal community to document their culture and heritage as Khoikhoi rooibos indigenous farmers and holders of traditional knowledge over Rooibos through a biocultural community protocol (BCP). The BCP was instrumental in leading to an industry-wide agreement between the Khoikhoi and San peoples and the South African Rooibos industry.
  • This benefit sharing agreement, as well as the BCP, includes the indigenous community of Wupperthal and highlights their long history of stewarding, growing and harvesting Rooibos in Wupperthal and their knowledge of the uses of Rooibos.

Natural Justice stands with communities

Natural Justice has a long-standing relationship with the community through supporting the Khoikhoi and San as knowledge holders of Rooibos. We hope to continue with the support to the Wupperthal community in their efforts to rebuild their cultural heritage and links to their ancestral land.

“Wupperthal is the lifeblood of our existence. This is our heritage. Our forefathers roamed this land, the rocks, the mountains and the rivers. This land is the only thing that presents agricultural and economic possibilities for our families to survive…. I am part of this community and the community is part of me, We have shared our traditions, cultures and values for generations.” – Barend Salomo

More information

  • The Khoikhoi Peoples’ Rooibos Biocultural Community Protocol (NATURAL JUSTICE PUBLICATION)
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Rodolfo Stavenhagen MISSION TO SOUTH AFRICA (UN REPORT 2006)
  • South African Human Rights Commission Report, National Hearing Relating to the Human Rights Situation of the Khoi-San in South Africa (SAHRC REPORT)
  • Traditional Knowledge Associated with Rooibos and honeybush Species in South Africa (REPORT: GOVERNMENT OF SOUTH AFRICA)
  • Environmental Affairs on study of rooibos and honeybush species in South Africa (MEDIA STATEMENT: GOVERNMENT OF SOUTH AFRICA)
  • Rooibos Robbery – A Story of Bioprospecting in South Africa (VIDEO)
  • Rooibos Robbery: Nestlé accused of biopirating South African genetic resources (NEWS ITEM)
  • Rooibos Restitution (VIDEO)
  • Factsheet: San, Khoi & Rooibos Factsheet (FACTSHEET)
  • Community Protocols in Africa: Lessons learned for ABS implementation (NATURAL JUSTICE REPORT)

For media queries contact:

1 March 2024

Related News

Sign up to Natural Justice!

Receive our quarterly newsletter or get blog updates. Easily unsubscribe at any time.