The Environmental Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from 10 African countries on topics relating to environmental law, both substantive and procedural. The collection focuses on cases where an environmental interest interacts with governmental or private interests.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-area expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
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This was an appeal before the High Court where the appellant a chief, had been charged before the subordinate court for 35 counts of theft by false pretences. The appellant falsely claimed that he was a representative of the Principal Chief and had been authorised by him to impose and receive fines of cash and small stock from persons who had failed to remove their animals from certain reserved grazing area.
The question was whether the appellant contravened Legal Notice Number 39 of 1980 namely, Range Management and Grazing Control Regulations published in Gazette Number 36 of 10 October 1980 (Supplement Number 4). The Principal Chief of the area gave evidence and denied that he ever authorised the appellant to act, as he did, and the court concluded that the appellant lied. The judge confirmed the conviction on 18 counts but set aside the sentences imposed by the learned magistrate as they were considered lenient. Accordingly, on 18 counts the appellant was sentenced to one-year imprisonment, each to run concurrently, the whole of which was suspended for a period of two years on condition that during the period of the said suspension he is not convicted of an offence involving dishonesty. The appellant was sentenced on two counts to a period of two years imprisonment on each count. Half the sentence was suspended for a period of two years on condition that during the period of the said suspension he was not convicted of an offence involving dishonesty.
This case concerned an appeal to the High Court by the appellant who subsequently made no further effort to prosecute his appeal. However, the judge was not prepared to leave the matter in that unsatisfactory state and decided to have the appellant and the second accused before the lower court, appear before the court and show cause as to why their sentences should not be increased. The two had been charged with selling uncut diamonds in contravention of s 6 (1)(b) of the Precious Stones Order 1970 and subsequently convicted.
The law applied was s 6(4) of the Precious Stones Order which specified the maximum limit of fine and imprisonment for offenders in this case, for the practice of dealing in uncut diamonds without authority. The judge decided that in his case that justice sternly demanded that illegal schemes to get rich quickly could not be tolerated by the courts. The appellant’s fine was increased in addition to a sentence of 6 months' imprisonment in default of payment.
The court exercised its entitlement to revisional powers to correct the inadequate sentence imposed upon the other offender in the lower court. The judge ordered that in addition to the fine that he had paid, and month spent in prison, the original sentence to imprisonment for twelve months be wholly suspended for three years on the condition that he was not convicted of any offence under the same law.
The plaintiff instituted an action in the High Court for the eviction of the defendants from a piece of land. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were carrying on mining operations at the site without holding a mining lease or a mining licence issued in terms of the Mining Rights Act 43 of 1967, hence acting illegally.
It was common cause that the defendants had not been granted a mining lease or a mining licence by the Mining Board. The defendants argued that the plaintiff did not have locus standi to bring an action of eviction because it did not own the land and that there was a likelihood that granite stone was not a base mineral that fell within the definition in the act.
The judge’s view was that granite stone fell within the definition of a base mineral and the defendants were therefore undertaking a mining operation requiring a lease or licence under the act. The court further held that the defendants held a bogus land grant from the chief. It also found that under s 2 of the Mineral Rights Act the right to minerals in any land were vested in the "Basotho Nation". The judge concluded that the case was not one between landlord and tenant but between landlord (or landowner) and squatter in a situation governed by a unique and unusual land law. Accordingly, a summary judgment was entered for the plaintiff as prayed.
This High Court case involved an accused that was charged with contravening section 6(1) (a) (i) and section 33 (2)(i) read with (ii) of the Precious Stones Order of 1970 (“order”). The charges were that the accused was in possession of three rough and uncut diamonds without being duly licenced to deal in rough and uncut diamonds. The accused pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. However, the High Court was tasked to review the sentence on the ground that the accused was wrongfully charged. The record showed that the accused was merely found possessing the diamond unlawfully and not selling the diamond.
Thus, the issue for review was whether the accused was correctly charged under section 6(1)(a)(i) and section 33(2)(i) read with (ii) of the order.
The High Court accepted that the accused was wrongfully charged under section 6(1)(a)(i) and section 33 (2)(i) read with (ii) of the order, after reviewing the submissions. The court held that the offence he committed was limited to possession of the diamond unlawfully. To the alternative, the court stated that the accused ought to have been charged under section 6(1)(c) of the order which deals with unlawful possession of the diamond. Finally, the court allowed the amendment of the charge and confirmed the three months’ sentence stating that the punishment was proportionate to either of the offences.
This was an appeal to the High Court involving an appellant who was co-charged for contravening Section 6(1)(a)(i) read with (4) of Precious Stones Order of 1970 (“order”) as well as theft. In the case, the appellant allegedly bought diamonds with money that he had stolen from the bank account of his employer. The Magistrate Court acquitted the appellant and the co-accused of the charge of contravening the order. However, the appellant was convicted and sentenced for theft. The appellant’s defence was that he withdrew the money for office use, but that it was then stolen from his wardrobe by an unknown person.
On appeal, the first issue on trial was whether the magistrate erred in finding that the explanation given by the appellant was far from being reasonably accurate. The second was whether there was enough evidence to establish the appellant’s guilt.
The High Court held that the prosecution showed that the appellant withdrew the amount of money alleged to have been stolen from the bank. It found that the conviction by the lower court was well based on (1) the remainder of the money that was unearthed from the appellant’s house; (2) the uncut diamond that was recovered from the appellant; (3) further evidence. The Magistrate Court’s decision was therefore upheld and the appeal dismissed.
In this case, the respondent claimed two houses, one yard, three fields, and three forests as his property; and alleged that the appellant was using the property unlawfully. A first judgement was rendered in favour of the respondent. The appellant then appealed the judgement. After the appeal was dismissed, the appellant continued to be adamant against the court's decision and the respondent, therefore, applied for interdict orders seeking to restrain the appellant from entering the disputed property. The interdict was granted and was then appealed by the appellant. This case concerned the appeal against the judgment of the resident magistrate confirming the interdict granted against the appellant.
The issues for determination were (1) whether the application for an interdict was the proper remedy in the circumstance and (2) whether the summons was properly served to the defendant.
The High Court held that for it to issue an interdict it must be satisfied that (1) a clear right existed; (2) an injury was actually committed or reasonably apprehended; (3) no other satisfactory remedy was available to the applicant. The High Court held that damages to the property involved would be irreversible and that the matter satisfied the requirements for an interdict.
The High Court found that the appellant chose to ignore the summons. Moreover, even if he was not duly served with the summons, he was supposed to apply the default judgement to be set aside and not to ignore it.
The appeal was dismissed with cost.
This High Court case concerned an appellant that had been convicted for contravening section 87(1) of the Land Act of 1979. The charge was that the accused (now appellant) did unlawfully and intentionally occupy land without proper authority. The appellant held the land and had agricultural license. When the land was declared urban land, the appellant continued to farm it, hence the accusation.
The main issue to be determined on appeal was whether the appellant was occupying the land in contravention of criminal code after the land was declared urban land.
The High Court held that the appellant did not contravene any
criminal code since the commissioner for land did not take steps required in law to nullify the pre-existing licenses. In that view, since the license held by the appellant was still intact even after declaring the land urban, the appellant was lawfully occupying the land.
The appeal was, therefore, upheld.
The court considered an application for the ejectment of the respondent from the applicant’s premises.
The respondent was a sublease on property leased by the applicant. The area was subsequently declared a development in terms of the Land Act of 1979. The respondent had earlier applied for the setting aside of the declaration, which application was unsuccessful.
The court distinguished several cases that supported the view that in ejectment matters, courts should not quickly order the ejectment of a respondent who is carrying out business on the land.
The court found that the declaration of the area into a development, and the subsequent publication in the government gazette all supported the view that development had to continue.
The court further balanced the costs incurred by the applicants, the benefits of the development to the public and the fact that the applicant offered the respondents space in the completed development to support that the respondent had to vacate the premises.
The court ordered the respondent to vacate and to pay the costs of the application.
The court considered an appeal against the decision of the House of Representatives. It passed a resolution directing the Respondent to pay to the Appellant compensation in the sum of $1.5 Billion for damages/compensation for environmental degradation of the Appellants' communities by oil drilling.
The High Court ordered the Respondent to comply with the resolution and pay to the Appellants the said sum. However, the respondent was able to obtain a stay of execution of the judgment in the trial court granted that the applicant deposits the outstanding amount pending the outcome of the subsequent appeal.
The Respondent wanted this varied and was successful. The applicant disputed this before this court pleading for unconditional stay of execution.
The court had to determine whether there were justifiable reasons to grant an unconditional stay of execution.
The court held that a stay of execution, conditional or unconditional, is granted at the discretion of the court and an appeal court will only interfere where the discretion was wrongly exercised or irregular.
The learned justices of the Court of Appeal took into consideration the consequences of an unsuccessful appeal and a successful one, and came to the conclusion that an unconditional stay of execution met the justice of the case since the Respondent (in this appeal) had assets within the jurisdiction of the court to defray the judgment sum. The facts and circumstances clearly did not support tying down $1.5 Billion to await judgment at the end of lengthy appeals.
The appeal was thereby dismissed.
The court considered an appeal of the judgment handed down in the lower court, granting an interim interdict.
The respondents in the matter argued that a court of appeal should not interfere with the discretion of the lower court, unless compelling reasons exist to do so.
The requirements for an interim interdict are that the applicant must prove 1) a prima facie right. 2) a well-grounded apprehension of irreparable harm occurring 3) a balance of convenience must favour the granting of the interim relief and 4) it must be the only satisfactory relief available.
The court found that despite the requirements, a court has a discretion on whether to grant such a relief. Despite the existence of the requirements, the court held that there are no comprehensive guidelines that can be laid down to prevent a court from using the discretion.
The court after weighing up the delay in the court a quo and the public interest in the project, came to the conclusion that the appropriate relief was one which protected the right of the respondents to claim relief through damages.
The court restrained the appellants from interfering or obstructing any agents, employee or experts employed by the respondents from carrying out tests or investigations for the purposes of establishing and estimating the damages.
The court granted the interim prohibitory interdict.
The court considered an application declaring the suspension and non-renewal of the licence by the respondent, null and void. The applicant was further seeking an order compelling the respondent to pay damages incurred as a result of the suspension.
The court was faced with the question of how a court must approach cases brought through motion proceedings, which require oral evidence to be heard..
The court pointed out that while the suspension and non-renewal of the licence could be decided on motion proceedings, the application for damages required oral evidence.
The court found that damages require proof and therefore cannot be decided on motion proceedings.
The court came to decision that the matter be referred to trial and all affidavits and depositions which formed part of the application be used as pleadings in the action.
The court postponed the issue of costs, until the trial.
The court considered an appeal against the judgment of the lower the court in in that the lower court erred in law by handing down the judgment in favour of the respondents.
The appellants argued that 1) the court had failed to acknowledge estoppel as part of the law of Lesotho. 2) that the learned judge erred in not finding that the respondent was precluded from seeking the relief by virtue of estoppel and 3) that the court had no power to make the order of costs.
On the question of whether the court was empowered to make a costs order, since it was not legislatively empowered to do so, the court held that despite the express powers in statute, the court had the capacity to make such order for reasons to do with justice.
On the withdrawal of the appeal, the court held that any party which wishes to withdraw an appeal must do so unequivocally. A litigant cannot unilaterally impose conditions on a case withdrawal to which an opponent and the court are enjoined.
The appeal was struck off the roll with costs.
This was an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal to strike out the appellant’s appeal on the ground that it only paid a fraction of the filing fee.
The respondents had filled an action claiming monetary compensation for a diesel spill from the appellant's facility which polluted the respondents’ water. The appellant admitted the spillage and judgment was passed against it. On appeal it paid N200 instead of N5000 to file documents into the registry. The respondents urged the court to dismiss the appeal on the basis of this and other irregularities. The appeal arose from an attempt by the appellant to regularise the payment of fees prior to the filing of the appeal but this was dismissed as incompetent due to payment of inadequate fees.
The court considered whether the lower court was right to strike out the appeal. It observed that a discretionary decision based on a principle that inadequate filing fees was fatal to an appeal was a wrong exercise of discretion. The court differentiated non-payment of fees from payment of inadequate fees. It held that a court of law could not allow the provisions of an enactment to be read in a way that would deny citizens access to court, thereby denying a litigant access to justice. It found that the lower court’s striking out of the appeal denied the appellant access to court.
Accordingly, the appeal was upheld and the appellant ordered to pay the correct fees.
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to recognise the respondent as the rightful heir to real property. The matter had commenced in the local court, the contention between the parties being, who the rightful heir to the property was.
The issue for the court’s determination was whether it could entertain the appeal. It relied on s 17 of the Court of Appeal Act 1978 and the decision in Mahabanka Mohale v ’Makholu Leuta Mahao C of A (CIV) No. 22 of 2004. The court observed that the appellant filed a notice of motion for leave to appeal almost fourteen months after the High Court judgement had been passed and found that the appeal was out of time.
The Court stated further that although it had discretion to allow a breach of rules in a fitting case, the appellant had failed to file an application for condonation with supporting affidavits to enable the court to make a determination on whether to exercise its discretion.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appellant’s application for leave to appeal and struck the appeal off the roll.
The court considered a final appeal against a decision by the Court of Appeal to dismiss the plaintiff’s first appeal against the judgement of the Trial Court.
The origin of this matter was a writ of summons issued to the respondent for payment of money that was deposited as compensation by a third party for their mining operations. The respondent then filed a cross-action seeking a declaration that he was entitled to the compensation and an injunction restraining the appellant’s from claiming the money.
The suits were consolidated and the trial judge gave judgement in favor of the respondent after having found that land used for the third party’s mining operations belonged to him, not the appellant. The appellant then filed an appeal which was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. Still dissatisfied, the appellant filed this final appeal calling upon the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision and to finally determine the matter.
The court found that the lower court adequately considered all the relevant issues. It further found that the High Court of Imo State had requisite jurisdiction to hear the case. The court noted that the appellant stretched the meaning of s 7(1)(p) of Decree No. 60 of 199, beyond reasonable limit by purporting that it ousted the High Court’s jurisdiction in matters of compensating land owners.
The court concluded that the appeal was without merit and deserving of punitive costs. The appeal was dismissed.
The court determined the test for applying its discretion to allow an application for an order for the production of documents during the course of proceedings as per rule 34(14) of the High Court Rules of 1980.
The applicants had previously requested for the production of some documents relating to the grant of mining leases before the trial started but made no attempt to enforce the discovery notice a year later into the proceedings. Thereafter, the applicants made a counter application for production of further documents but never pursued it. The reason for this was the belief that the fifth respondent was no longer represented in the proceedings. The applicants then launched this application against the fifth respondent.
The court made a consideration of the element of delay, insofar as it prejudiced the opposite party by preventing them to bring back their own witnesses and the materiality of the evidence in so far as it was practically conclusive.
It was held that the applicants failed to give an acceptable explanation for the delay for requesting the two sets of documents since they could not prove that they became aware of the documents sought at a later stage.
It was also held that the fifth respondent had not formally withdrawn from the case and would be prejudiced if the discovery was allowed,mainly because they could no longer bring back their witnesses and put the documents in cross-examination.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The matter dealt with an appeal in which the respondent had commenced proceedings in the Local Court against the appellant and his mother for trespassing in a forest. The appellant denied the trespass and claimed that the forest had belonged to his father and that he was the heir. The court delivered a very confusing judgement which was hard to comprehend and so the respondent sought an appeal that would see the Magistrate’s Court revisit the matter.
The magistrate reviewed and set aside the matter issuing a new judgement. The principal question was if the magistrate had the power to review the matter from the local court.
Section 26 of the Central and Local Courts Proclamation granted magistrates the power to review matters but that such a magistrate must not constitute himself a court of appeal and arbitrarily interfere with the working of the lower court. He was empowered to ensure that there were no irregularities on the face of the proceedings or prejudice or bias in a decision given by the President of a Local or Central Court only.
The court in this matter therefore, found that the magistrate, by setting aside the decision of the local court and delivering an alternative judgment was exercising an appellate function which was beyond its authority. The court found that it could not consider issues of law in the present matter and referred the matter back to the local court for review as should have been done by the magistrate.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the magistrate to sentence the first appellant and second appellant to 15 months and ten months imprisonment respectively, for theft of diamonds. The appellants had pleaded guilty to the charge but appealed against their sentences.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether the trial magistrate had erred in passing the respective sentences. The court found that the court below placed too much emphasis on the value of the diamonds and the deterrent nature of the sentences to the exclusion of the personal circumstances of the appellants. Further, it was held that the magistrate did not take into account the cooperation of the appellants or the fact that they were first offenders. The court went on to hold that the magistrate made an unjustified differentiation between the appellants’ sentences.
Accordingly, the court set aside the sentences and substituted them for the payment of a fine amounting to M250 and in default of payment of the fine, imprisonment for two years.