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.
Read also JIFA's Environmental Country Reports for SADC
The court considered a petition brought by the applicants against the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge them with murder.
The petitioners argued that they were employed as rangers in the Wildlife Service and being lawfully armed in the course of their duties, they confronted suspected armed poachers and shot two of them. They contended that the failure to hold an inquest as prescribed by ss 385 and 388 of the Penal Code, before they were charged amounted to a breach of their constitutional rights.
The court considered whether the applicants used their weapons lawfully and in the course of their duties. Further, whether under the circumstances, an inquest was a prerequisite.
The court considered the import of ss 386, 387 or 388 of the Penal Code and found that in the circumstances it was clear that an inquest ought to have taken place. Further, it observed that while the respondent proceeded as if an inquest had been conducted, no inquest, as known in law, was ever conducted and the “inquest” the investigators passed off as having been conducted, had no legal basis.
The court held that the decision to charge the petitioners with the offences of murder violated article 157 (11) of the Constitution and by the same token infringed on the petitioner’s rights under articles 27(1), 47 (1) and 50 (1)(2) of the Constitution
Accordingly, the court allowed the petition and declared the decision of the DPP to charge the applicants a nullity.
The court considered an appeal against the conviction and sentence of the appellant, for the killing of an animal, possession of government trophy and failure to report being in possession of government trophy.
The appellant sought leniency and a lighter sentence on the ground that he had reformed. The respondent opposed the appeal and urged the court to uphold, both the conviction and sentence, and maintained that the evidence by the prosecution’s witnesses established the case against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether at the trial, there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction and sentence of the appellant.
The court found that although the evidence was circumstantial, there was no plausible explanation as to how the appellant came to be in possession of the tusks stolen from the dead elephant. Further that between the discovery of the carcass and arrest of the appellant, there were no intervening factors to weaken the inference of guilt.
The court observed that the appellant was sentenced under the earlier Wildlife Conservation Act, Chapter 376 which had since been repealed. The sentence was more lenient than those introduced by the amended act, thus the sentence was neither excessive, nor wrong. Accordingly, the court held that the appellant had been properly convicted and dismissed the appeal on both sentence and conviction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal that upheld a decision of the High Court to order that compensation be paid to the respondents for damage caused to economic crops, fish ponds and lakes by the activities of an oil company. The appellants contended that the respondents, despite being occupiers of the land, were customary tenants and that they (appellants) were exclusively entitled to compensation as the owners of the land. The Court of Appeal in upholding the decision of the High Court held that the matter was not predicated on title to land but rather one for entitlement to compensation and granted judgment in favour of the respondents.
The Supreme Court considered whether the lower court was wrong to have heldáthat title to the land, the subject of claim for compensation by the parties, was not in issue. The court held that the issue of claim of title was certainly not before the trialácourt and the learned trial judge was right in not consideringáand determining that issue in his judgment. Accordingly, it held that the court below was right in upholding the trial court's decision that the identity of the land in question was not an issue and claim was solely one for compensation and not title. Accordingly the court dismissed the appeal.
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.
The court considered an action, where it was called upon to determine the seaward boundary of the Littoral States within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The purpose was to calculate the revenue accruing to the Federation account from the natural resources derived.
The Federal State contended that the southern seaward boundary of each of the defendants’ states would be the low-water mark of the land surface akin to such State, alternatively, the seaward limit of inland waters within the State. The contrary argument was that the territory of each State was beyond the low-water mark and extended into the territorial water.
The court found that the southern boundaries of the littoral States are the sea. Thus, as a result, it makes them riparian owners. In terms of common law, as riparian owners the extent of their territory would be the low-water mark, alternatively the seaward limit of their internal waters.
The court found that none of the Territorial Waters Act, Sea Fisheries Act and Exclusive Economic Zone Act had extended the territory beyond southern boundary limit. Therefore, and due to the sea shore and foreshore belonging to the crown, the court held that the low-water mark forms the boundary of the land territory between the littoral States.
Plaintiff’s claim was successful.
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 whether the State High Court had jurisdiction to entertain a matter about mines and minerals.
The court held that according to s 251(1)(n) of the Constitution as amended, the Federal High Court had jurisdiction about mining operations.
The court found that the statement of claim showed that the cause of action accrued in 1996; therefore, the law that was in existence at that time is applicable. Further, the court found that the construction, operation and maintenance of an oil pipeline by a holder of oil prospecting license is an act of mining operations. The facts of the case therefore fell within s 230(1)(0) of the 1979 Constitution. The trial court lacked jurisdiction.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal.
This matter dealt with an appeal against both conviction and sentence of the contravention of ss 30(1) and 28 of Proclamation 17 of 1939 pertaining to the theft of diamonds.
The Supreme Court considered whether contradictions in the state case raised reasonable doubt. The court considered that the failure to testify when there is direct evidence of an offence, tends to strengthen the direct evidence, because there is nothing to contradict it. In this case the state witness gave evidence implicating the appellant which called for an answer but did not receive one.
The court considered whether the state witness was a trap. The definition of a trap is someone who proposes criminal conduct to someone else with the intention of securing the conviction of that other person whilst ostensibly taking part himself. The court considered that the state witness took part in the commission of the offence, knowingly stood to gain from the appellant’s arrest and had broached the subject. However, the appellant should have challenged the truth of the assertions made by the witness which he did not. Accordingly, the court held that the appeal against conviction had no merit.
The court considered mitigating factors, particularly entrapment. The court determined that the interests of society are safeguarded by a system of justice that excludes the false entrapping of innocent people because it may bring to court people who had no interest in stealing diamonds. Accordingly, the court upheld the appeal against sentence.
The matter dealt with the interpretation of particular terms of a prospecting agreement which arose from the mining of a grant area.
The Supreme Court considered whether to declare that clause 8 (a) created an obligation to provide sufficient funds on a continuing basis. The test was whether the obligation to fund was limited. The appellant’s argument was based upon a literal reading which the court held was absurd as it would result in regarding the obligation as an unlimited one. Accordingly, the court held that the express terms of the clause contemplated further funding to be determined by a further mutual agreement.
The court considered whether clause 10 entitled the second respondent to call up its loan. The court reasoned that if the loan was never repayable it would not be a loan. The court held that the respondent, Iscor, was not precluded from calling up its loan and to say that it would be is far too wide.
The court considered whether to grant the declaratory order in terms of clause 9. The court found the prayer to be too vague to warrant a declaration. Accordingly, the court held that the declarator sought was without substance.
In order for a declarator to be granted the issue which the declarator seeks to address must be in dispute between the parties. In the circumstances there was no material time when there had been a dispute about the continued existence of the agreement. Accordingly, the court held that it would not grant the declarator sought.
The appeal was dismissed with costs.