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
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
This matter dealt with an appeal for a decision taken by the Magistrate’s Court to set aside the Local Court’s decision to absolve from the matter about the ownership of a certain piece of arable land.
It was the appellant’s case that while he was out of the country the chieftainship had deprived him of the land and reallocated it to the respondent who since used it. The respondent argued that the chief had rightly allocated the land to him and that the appellant had never been an occupant of said land. The appellant contended that a former directive issued by the court to make a determination of the ownership of the land when a dispute about the ownership arose before, had not been fulfilled and therefore the land would belong to him by default, as he had inherited it.
The High Court found that the issue was never resolved because the chieftainess could not confront the appellant with either of the two tenants whom he had given permission to stay on the land or the witness to the inheritance. Therefore, the appropriateness of the reallocation would have to be determined by senior chiefs before it could be brought to a competent court of law which was the Central Court and not the Local Court. The courts of law had, therefore, no jurisdiction on the matter before it had first been exhausted by the chieftainship in accordance with the Land Act of 1973 and the appeal was thus dismissed.
The fifth respondent was created by statute for the purpose of implementing a project design to dam water. The dam was built and flooded the area that the appellant had obtained a mining lease for, making mining impossible. The government then unilaterally cancelled the appellants’ lease. The appellants filed an application to set aside this cancellation. Their application was granted.
The fifth respondent filed a counter-application to set aside as null and void the mining lease on the grounds that the mining lease was a nullity because it had allegedly been concluded without a recommendation by the Mining Board and without prior consultation with and approval of the Principal Chiefs within whose areas of jurisdiction the mining lease area fell. The fifth respondent further submitted that such recommendation and prior consultation and approval were peremptorily enjoined by s 6 of the Mining Rights Act No. 43 of 1967, so that non-compliance with both, or with either, of these requirements invalidated the granting of the mining lease by the government to the applicants and rendered it a nullity.
The court considered whether the mining lease complied with requirements of the Mining Rights Act. It found on the facts that the fifth respondent had successfully discharged the onus of proving that neither of the abovementioned requirements had been complied with before the lease was concluded. Accordingly, the lease was set aside. Costs were awarded in favour of the respondent herein.
In this case, chieftainship rights over a particular area were contested. The applicant sought an order calling upon the first respondent to show cause why he should not be restrained from holding himself out as chief of the area known as Ha Mochekoane. The applicant argued that he was a gazetted chief, but the respondent denied this and argued that he had been confirmed chief following the death of his father and that it was not necessary to be gazetted as chief. He further argued that the onus of proof was on the applicant to show that the disputed area was under his jurisdiction. The applicant’s failure to clearly describe his boundaries in the proceedings, the respondent argued, was fatal.
The court considered whether respondent held the office of chief and whether he was legally authorized to exercise the powers and perform the duties of a chief. After reviewing all the evidence, the court found no indication that the contested area was that of the respondent. The court also found that the respondent did not exercise any chiefly functions and lacked locus standi. Finally, the court held that the Chieftainship Act No. 22 of 1968 stated that one could not hold the office of chief without having been gazetted.
Regarding the question of boundaries, the court reviewed historical evidence and held that it was impossible for the respondent to be chief of that area. Accordingly, the application was allowed with costs.
The appellants in this case appealed against the decision of the High Court to uphold a counter-application by the respondents. The High Court upheld the respondent’s counter application on the basis that certain peremptory conditions had not been fulfilled and by its judgment set aside the appellants’ mining lease and awarded costs in favour of the respondent.
The applicants argued that the requirements that they failed to fulfill were not peremptory and that these requirements were only peremptory prior to the 1970 and 1986 coups. They contended further that the lease agreement having been concluded thereafter, it should not have been declared null and void. The argued further that the court below erred in awarding costs on the attorney and own client scale.
The Court of Appeal held that, while the coups suspended the 1966 Constitution, they did not set at nought all other legislative provisions. It held that the provisions of the Mining Rights Act, relating to the conclusion of mining leases, were still in place. The court further held that the conditions that the appellants failed to fulfill were grounded in long tradition and custom.
Consequently, the appeal was dismissed save on the issue of costs. The court held that the High Court was justified in making a special order as to costs on the issue of conspiracy but that the punitive costs were more appropriate in the circumstances and accordingly adjusted the costs order against the appellants whose conduct was deemed vexatious.
This was an appeal against the order of the High Court that required the appellant to pay M52 900.00 to the respondent. This money was received by the appellant from the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority as compensation for the expropriation of land allotted to the respondent by his widowed mother.
The appellant and respondent, a nephew and uncle, occupied two adjacent properties. These properties were inherited by the appellant’s father and the respondent from their widowed mother in 1964. The court considered firstly, whether the respondent’s mother had a right at law to allocate the land to the appellant’s father and the respondent. Secondly, the court considered whether payment of the compensation ought to have been allocated to the parties in accordance with the portions of land that they occupied.
The court found that there was nothing in law, whether customary law or common law, prohibiting the widow (the respondent’s mother) from making the allotment that she did as it was designed to ensure that, during her lifetime, her sons exercised her rights in and over the fields. The court also found that although there was evidence to show that both properties were registered under the appellant’s father’s name, it was clear that the respondent was occupier and user of the disputed field since 1964, and was therefore entitled to receive compensation.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.
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 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.
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.
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.