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 against the decision of the High Court to dismiss an application by the appellant for a stay of execution of the judgment given by the trial court.
The trial judge gave judgment in favour of the respondent having found that the appellant was unable to prove ownership of the land. The trial judge declared that the appellants were customary tenants of the respondent and lacked authority to put tenants on the respondent’s property; the judge also ordered for payment of damages and issued an injunction. Thereafter, the appellant filed an appeal against this judgment and a motion in the High Court seeking a stay of execution of the judgment pending the time the determination of the appeal. This appeal and the appeal to the Court of appeal on the same issue was dismissed.
The court noted that a stay of execution was a discretionary order that should be exercised judicially, by taking into account the competing rights of the parties to justice. The court held that a stay application required proof of exceptional circumstances. It observed that a stay would only be granted if its refusal would deprive the appellant of the means of prosecuting the appeal. In dismissing the appeal, the court relied on the finding of the trial court that the land did not belong to the appellants and the fact that the appellant failed to prove exceptional circumstances. Accordingly, the appeal was dimissed.
This was an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal that declared that the respondents were the rightful owners of the land in dispute, issued damages for trespass by the appellant and an injunction preventing the appellant from entering the land and harvesting therefrom.
The facts revealed that the appellant's forefather granted the respondent's forefather a portion of land for farming purposes and reserved the right to reap the fruits of trees in the farm. In exchange, the respondent’s forefather was also required to pay Ishakole( land rent) as and when due.
The court determined the rights of the appellant as a customary tenant. The court noted that the appellant’s rights were subject to the respondent’s (landlord) right to reversion in case of any breach of the grant. However, it noted that a landlord is still required to approach the court to forfeit the interest of the tenant.
The court also determined the rights of the parties in a customary tenancy after the Land Use Act 1978 came into operation. The court found that act took away the freehold title vested in individuals or communities but not the customary right of use and control of the land. It was thus held that a customary tenant remained a tenant subject to the conditions attached to the customary tenancy. Further, the court held that the appellant was entitled to harvest fruits and trees and could not be liable for trespassing.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.
This was a dispute over land ownership and related claims to reversionary interest compensation. Both parties sought orders declaring that they were allodial owners of the land in dispute according to tradition and customs, and that they were entitled to receive the reversionary interest compensation.
The court determined whether the allodial title to the land in dispute vested in individual families or in the appellant as the Tindana for and on behalf of the whole community.
The court held that the best way of resolving conflicts arising from traditional evidence concerning ownership of land is to test it against recent acts to see which traditional version is supported. The court found that it is widely accepted, among legal writers, scholars and practitioners, that the Tindana is the landlord or landowner. Additionally, the report of the committee to investigate a land dispute between the Tindonsobligo and the Kalbeo people explicitly stated that the Tindana was the allodial owner of land, while the people were usufucts (settler/farmers).
The court noted that the defendants Tindana status was not in dispute, and concluded that the appellant was the the allodial owner of Kalbeo land and held it in in trust for community.
The court considered an appeal against the judgment of the court below declaring the defendant a tenant, alternatively a licensee of the plaintiff, as well as determining the 2nd defendant’s misgivings concerning the costs awarded against him.
The defendant argued that the land devolved on the chief but was subject to use by both parties’ families. The second defendant was joined as a co-defendant, alleging that the land was founded by his ancestor and that he and his predecessors had been in undisputed possession.
The defendants argued that the judgment was granted erroneously as the trial judge failed to correctly define the boundaries between the parties’ land.
The court found that the trial court had adequately defined the boundaries between the parties’ land and that the first defendant’s ancestor and his people had lived on the land for over 300 years. Thus, although the plaintiffs are the land owners, the defendants are in possession and their possessionary rights should not be disturbed by an injunction.
The court found that in a case that has been on the list for 25 years, costs of ¢1,200,000.00 against 1st Defendant and ¢950,000.00 against 2nd Defendant awarded by the Court in my view is stretching judicial generosity to it limit. I am unable to review the costs mulcted against the Defendants. The appeal by the 2nd Defendant/appellant fails as well as that of the Plaintiff/appellant. In the circumstances the judgment of the lower Court is affirmed.
The court considered an urgent application for spoliation orders (common law remedy) against the first to eleventh respondents or alternatively, an eviction order against them.
The thirteenth respondent purchased three farms which were adjacent to land which was incorporated in a communal area falling under the jurisdiction of the first applicant, a traditional authority. These farms were intended to be incorporated into the communal land falling under the applicant’s jurisdiction. The Government of Namibia initiated the process of incorporating these farms into the communal area under the first applicant through a notice published in the Government Gazette pursuant to the provisions of the Communal Land Reform Act 5 of 2002.
The issue facing the court was whether the first to eleventh respondents had the prerogative to occupy the farms with their cattle grazing on them, without authority to do so. The respondents argued that the applicant lacked locus standi (capacity) to bring the application since the land had not yet been incorporated into the communal area by way of notice in the Government Gazette, as required by the act, thus the applicant did not have jurisdiction over the land.
The application for spoliation was refused because the applicant could not show deprivation of possession by reason of the respondents’ occupation which predates its possession and control. Thus, the court found that the respondents could not establish any right to be on the farms.
The eviction order was granted with costs.
The matter focused on the lawfulness of the removal of fencing surrounding land for agricultural purposes in a communal area.
The respondent, Ohangwena Communal Board, established under s 2 of the Communal Land Reform Act 5 of 2002 removed fencing erected by the applicant, around a tract of agricultural land in a communal area, which the applicant alleged had been duly allocated to him in 1986.
The applicant approached the High Court on an urgent basis for an interdict to restrain the board from removing the fencing surrounding the grazing farm and from disposing of the fencing material which had already been removed.
The applicant maintained that in terms of s 18(b) read with s 28(2)(b) and 28(3) of the act, he is entitled to retain the fences which he had erected on and around the farm. The court found that the applicant had erected the perimeter fence prior to the coming into force of the Act and his intention to apply for authorisation for the retention of the perimeter fence, meant that the removal of the fence by the respondent was unlawful and in conflict with the act.
Given the entitlement to retain a fence if the statutory requisites in s 28(80) are met, it would be unlawful for boards to remove such fencing where applicants intend to make such application prior to the expiration of the period set by the Minister pursuant to s 18.
The interdictory relief was granted.
The plaintiff’s claim was for judgment against the defendants for rental money received from the 3rd to 8th defendant from leasing part of plaintiff's land. The plaintiff also claimed compensation for loss of land as per art. 16(2) of the Namibian Constitution.
The applicant argued that she acquired a customary land right in respect of riparian land that was designated as communal land by a representative of the Mafwe Traditional Authority, after her father’s death in 2001.
The land became state land after it was declared a township in 1995 and was thus transferred to the Katima Mulilo Town Council.
The defendants argued that the local authority owned the land and the plaintiff had no right thereof. The court held that ownership of the land vested in the local authority as per the Local Authorities Act of 1992. The court applied s. 15(2) of the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002 as read with Section 3 of the Local Authorities Act of 1992 and held that the land ceased to be customary land when the town council became the owner in 1995.
The court noted as an obiter (by the way), that the claim for compensation should have been made against the state for taking possession of the community land not the Local Authority.
Accordingly, the claim was dismissed with costs.
In this case, the applicants sought to enforce the decision of the Royal House of Chief Kambazembi (a traditional authority), that allocated communal land to them.
Following the continued occupation of the three square kilometres of the land by the first and second respondents, the applicants decided to enforce the decision by the traditional authority in the court.
The court analysing s. 24-26 of the Communal Land Reform Act, Act 5 of 2002 held that the traditional authority had the power to allocate customary land rights. However, upon the allocation of a customary land right, the applicant was required to notify the land board for registration of the land. The court observed that the applicant failed to do so and thus failed to establish a right that was capable of enforcement by the court.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed, and the applicants were directed to pay costs of the first and second respondents jointly and severally.
This was an appeal against a decision of the High Court to dismiss the appellant’s claim for loss of occupation of communal land. Her second claim was that the land was unlawfully expropriated without compensation by the respondents.
The court determined whether or not the appellant had acquired a valid customary law tenure right in the land in dispute and whether this right was unlawfully interfered with. Further, whether any liability attached to the council arising from its interference with that right.
The first respondent (“the council”), contended that the land belonged to it and had ceased to be communal land thus extinguishing communal land tenure. The court found that the appellant acquired and held a customary land tenure right and the state’s succession to the communal land did not extinguish communal land tenure but the state simply held the land in trust for the affected communities.
The court established that the Constitution guaranteed the enforcement of customary land rights. The court therefore, concluded that the appellant had an exclusive right to the use and occupation of the land in dispute; and that the right attached to the land even after its proclamation as town land.
Accordingly, they court upheld the appeal with costs in favour of the appellant. The matter was remitted to the High Court for the adjudication of the appellant’s claim of unjust enrichment and compensation.
Customary Law – Communal Land – Communal land rights – Power to evict a leaseholder from a communal land – Whether the Communal Land Reform Act, 2002 empowers a leaseholder to cancel a sub-lease and evict a sub lessee from a communal land area.
The court considered an appeal against a decision in the Environment and Land court, declaring that the respondent had trespassed on the applicant’s premises and that the respondent be ordered to vacate the area and demolish and structures it had erected.
The respondent alleged that it had settled in the area 45 years prior and had inherited the land from his father.
The appellant alleged it had purchased the property in 1994 but had not occupied or used the land. The lower court held that by the time the action was brought in 2008 there was evidence that the respondent had been in occupation for a period of time that would entitle him to raise the defense of limitation, and after the expiration of over 12 years, the appellant was precluded from bringing an action to recover the premises.
The question was whether the respondent had been in possession of the premises for over 12 years as at the time the suit to evict him was instituted in 2008, and whether his possession was averse to that of the appellant?
The court held that the relevant period would be between 1994, the date of registration of the appellant as the proprietor, and 2008, when the suit was filed. It held that the period translated to 14 years which meant the respondent could legitimately base his claim and dealt with the premises as if it was exclusively his. Thus dispossessing the appellant of its right to the land.
The court considered an application declaring that the applicants right to life had been contravened by forcible eviction, as well as their right to protection of the law.
The applicants averred that they had resided and carried on farming on the land from which they were evicted for 61 years. After the land had been degazetted for settlement by Gazette Notices, the applicants claimed that their subsequent eviction was an infringement of their constitutional rights.
The Applicants claimed to reside and possess the land in dispute but did not lay any credible foundation to that claim. The only document they placed before the court to support their claim was what was described as “The fact-finding Report of Mr Cheruiyot Kiplangat.” The said person was not known to this court and the court was not told what authority he had, nor his competence to make the report.
The court held that the report had no legal basis and was to be rejected. As the application was substantially based on the fact that the appellants had wrongly been evicted from the land, to which they purported to lay a stake, the court found that their reference had automatically failed, based on the finding that the fact-finding report they relied on had no legal authority.
This was an appeal to the High Court against the decision of a magistrate to dismiss the appellant’s claim which concerned a dispute over a customary piece of land. While the appellant stated that the part of the land in dispute was his, the respondent maintained otherwise.
The issue for determination was whether the land belonged to the respondent or the appellant. The court held that in civil cases, the evidence was on a balance of probability. As such, the respondent’s evidence that he was the one given the land by the chief carried more weight and was therefore convincing. The court further held that customary lands were owned communally, which meant that the chief did not own the land as his belonging. Therefore, the court stated that the chief did not have the power to deprive one person of land and give it to another. In conclusion, the court upheld the decision of the court below and accordingly dismissed the appeal.
This was an appeal against the decision of a magistrate to order the appellant to vacate a disputed piece of customary land. The appellant applied for a stay of execution of judgment pending appeal.
The two issues for the court’s determination were, whether the appellant was duly allocated the piece of land according to customary law, and whether he had the right of usage and occupation. The court applied the burden and standard of proof based on a balance of probabilities, and ss 2, 25 and 26 of the Land Act which regarding title and ownership of customary land.
The court found out that the respondent had left the land unattended for a period of 13 years and, although this did not remove his right of usage and occupation, the status quo could not be maintained. The court observed that, the land was lying idle when it was allocated by the Group village Headman to the appellant who in turn redeveloped it by building a house, a grocery store and planted trees and fruits. The court held that the respondent sat on his rights and allowed the appellant to develop the land. The court also found that respondent’s conduct had been unreasonable during the time that the appellant developed the land.
In conclusion, the judge held that the appellant was duly allocated the piece of customary land according to law and that he then had permanent rights of usage and occupation. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded with costs.
This was a mediation report regarding an action commenced by the plaintiffs against the installation of a water pump and other construction works on what was believed to be customary land. The plaintiffs sought to restrain the defendant from interfering with their customary rights on the land. They contended that the water pump installation plan violated their right to the use and enjoyment of their customary land. The matter was set for mediation.
The issue for resolution was whether the project interfered with the customary land held by the plaintiffs.
An agreement was reached by the parties to the effect that the project was located in an intersection of the road reserve which was public land pursuant to the Waterworks Act and that the defendants had obtained the requisite authority to install the water pump and related works. The proposed construction of the water pump was therefore not in violation of any customary rights for as long as it was restricted within the road reserve. Accordingly, the matter was resolved.
This was an application by the plaintiff claiming compensation for the land which was compulsorily acquired by the defendant. The plaintiff made a further claim for compensation for the destruction of 390 banana plants. The court had to decide on the quantum of damages payable for the loss of use and occupation of land and the loss of the 390 banana plants.
The court first dealt with the general principles guiding compensation and considered the applicable legal provisions. The court held that the main principle underpinning damages was restitution. In addition, the court listed several grounds under which compensation can be calculated. These grounds included a calculation of compensation based on the market value of the land; compensation based on the depreciation of value, if only a part of the land was expropriated; disturbance compensation among other guiding principles.
In awarding judgment for the plaintiff, the court considered the nature of the deprivation and concluded that such deprivation was permanent. The plaintiff was awarded MK3, 812, 000.00 as compensation and the respondent was ordered to pay the costs.
This was an appeal against a decision of a magistrate to dismiss the appellant’s claim over a piece of customary land which he claimed was unlawfully in the possession of the second respondent, his son. The appellant had left the village for a long time and upon returning found that the first respondent had constructed a home on his land. The appellant instructed the first respondent to vacate land but he refused and proceeded to sell the land to the second respondent. The appellant told the court below that he inherited the piece of land from his father. The lower court found that the appellant had failed to adduce enough evidence to show that the land belonged to him.
The court had to determine the following: which party had the right of occupation of the land; whether the land was lawfully transferred to the second respondent and whether a permanent injunction could be granted restraining the appellant or the respondents from interfering with the land in question.
The court held that although the land had been given to the first respondent customarily, chiefs must be guided by the law specifically, the Constitution and it was against the law to deprive any person the right to use and occupy customary land without any justification at law. It held that indefinite individual usage and occupation of customary land was therefore permissible under the laws of Malawi and the subsequent transfer was legal. Accordingly, the court upheld the lower court ruling.
The court considered an appeal against a decision of the High Court dismissing an application for a remedy over a land dispute on the grounds that there were disputes of fact that could not be ascertained, which the appellants should have foreseen.
The first, second and third appellants were members of the fourth appellant, a company of Swazi indigenous people, formed to co-ordinate the ploughing of sugar cane by indigenous Swazis. The first and second respondent were adult Swazis employed by a wildlife business undertaking.
The court considered 1) whether the application should have been dismissed due to a failure by the applicants to join parties who had a substantial interest in the matter, and 2) whether the applicants succeeded in establishing that they were in peaceful and undisturbed possession of the land when they were evicted.
The court found that the appellants did not attempt to join, as respondents, two parties, including a trust controlling the wildlife business undertaking, which had a direct interest in the disputed land. The appellants argued that a trust is not a juristic person, but the court found that legal proceedings can be brought by and against a trust. It was also established that before they moved onto the land the appellants had already been removed from that land and were aware that their right to occupy the land was disputed. Based on the court’s findings and failure to comply with the rules in the filing of heads of argument, the appeal was dismissed[kb1].
At the heart of this dispute was a farmers’ association, the applicant in this case, and its use of land in the Nkambeni Area. The association was formed, with the chief’s consent after he was assured that the community unanimously supported the project to turn their land into commercial property. The dispute initially arose because the second respondent was denied membership of the association because his younger brother was already representing their family. This offended the second respondent who considered himself to be the legitimate representative. The dispute mutated and the respondents alleged that the chief deprived them of their fields without consent. The court considered whether there had been unlawful deprivation.
Previously, the dispute was taken to traditional structures for resolution and ultimately was referred to the Swazi National Council where the King rendered a judgement. The applicant and respondents disagreed about the contents and effect of this judgement. The applicants stated that the association was given permission to pursue its activities and the respondents invited to apply for alternative land. On the other hand, the respondents claimed that traditional structures and the regional administrator ruled in their favour before the Swazi National Council was approached and that the latter declined to give a ruling on the matter.
After considering evidence and witness testimony, the court found that the applicant’s evidence was cogent and consistent while the respondents’ evidence was unsatisfactory and contradictory. Consequently, the application was granted.
The applicants in this matter approached the high court seeking, inter alia, an interdict preventing the respondents from evicting 140 school children and from demolishing their homesteads.
The residents occupied the land in question through the traditional system of Khonta. After paying the prescribed livestock and fees to the area’s chief, they were allowed to settle on the land. However, it was later discovered that the land belonged to the Swaziland National Provident Fund and was therefore not under the control of the chief.
The applicants argued that the evictions were arbitrary and contravened s 18 and 29 of the Swaziland Constitution and that such evictions were a threat to education of their children.
The court first dealt with the issue of urgency and concluded that the court was prepared to hear the matter on an urgent basis. The court in deciding the matter weighed the rights of the children against those of property owners as contained in the Constitution. It concluded that the rights of children did not supersede the rights of the property owners. Therefore, the court held that the applicants failed to establish the requirements of an interdict and the rest of the orders they were seeking.
The matter was dismissed with costs.
In this High Court case, the applicant had an agreement with the respondent aimed at selling a herd of cattle to the applicant. Based on this agreement, the respondent proceeded to take the herd of cattle presented in the contract without paying for them. An attempt to charge the respondent for theft through the police did not work as the police hesitated to prosecute the respondent because they contended that they would have a weak case.
Then, the applicant decided to prosecute the case privately charging the respondent for spoliation. The applicant demanded that the court should declare that the herd of cattle that were taken by the respondent, in fact belonged to him.
Thus, the issue for determination by the court was to show cause why a declaration should not be made against the respondent to the effect that the herd of cattle be restored to the applicant.
On perusal of the given evidence, the High Court held that the respondent failed to show that the applicant allowed him to take the herd of cattle in dispute. Subsequently, the applicant was despoiled of the herd of cattle, that is, possession should be restored to the applicant. The respondent was also ordered to hand over to the applicant the progeny of the cattle forming the subject matter of the proceedings.
Civil Procedure ̶ Application by Appellant for an order ejecting the Respondents from the land situate at Mhlaleni, directing the Respondents to demolish all structures they have constructed on the land and interdicting Respondent’s from carrying out any activities on the land – Dispute over the territorial jurisdiction over the area where land is situate – Plea of lis pendens raised by the Respondents - whether matter pending determination by the High Court or the traditional authorities – High Court upholds plea of lis pendens and orders status quo prevailing to be maintained pending determination by appropriate authority – Whether High Court erred in so holding – Whether High Court has jurisdiction to entertain matters relating to land pending before traditional authorities having regard to Section 151 (3) (b) of the Constitution - Held that High Court has no original jurisdiction to entertain matters in which a Swazi Court has jurisdiction, but High Court has only revisional and appellate juridiction as provided by Section 151 (3) of the Constitution - where a matter is pending or has been determined by the traditional authorities, the High Court must refer the matter back to those authorities for determination or enforcement – Decision of High Court upheld, and – Appeal dismissed with costs.
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.