In South Africa and South West Africa, 20th century (UN, 1966), a unit of length, approximately 31.486 centimeters, = 1.033 feet. A Cape square foot is approximately 1.067 square feet.
Cape measure originated in Dutch measures brought by Dutch settlers in 1652. Land surveys were conducted in the Rijnlandse roede (rhynland rood), but without a national standard. Early in the 19th century the lack of a standard in surveys began to become a legal problem in the Cape Colony. In 1858, Governor Gray appointed a commission headed by Thomas Maclear to clarify the matter. The only standards found were two rods of Government Surveyor Thibault (1800 - 1815), each about 6 feet long, which taken together were intended to represent a rhynland rood. Measuring the rods, the commission came to the conclusion that 1 rhynland (or cape) foot = 1.033 English foot, and that value was legalized in 1859.
It survived for measuring land when other uses became obsolete or illegal. Town lots in Johannesburg and other Transvaal towns were typically 100 × 100 or 100 × 50 Cape feet.
The unit of land measure of the Colony is, and shall be, a foot of such length that one thousand of such feet shall be equal to one thousand and thirty-three English feet, as now by law defined and established for the lineal measurements in England.
Cape Colony, Law 9 of 1859.
In South Africa, as a rule, the Imperial land measures are used in the Towns, and the Cape land measures in the Country; but there are exceptions, such as acres in Natal, and Cape feet in all the Transvaal Towns. Many surveyors use the Cape set of measures for horizontal distances and the Imperial set for vertical distances. Scales are made at so many lineal Cape Roods to the Imperial Inch.
Alfred J. Martin.
Up-to-date Tables of Imperial, Metric, Indian and Colonial Weights and Measures…
London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1904.
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Last revised: 8 November 2011.