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 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.
This matter dealt with a land dispute which had commenced in the District Court but was transferred to the Land Court by agreement of the parties. At the end of the trial, an application for absolution from the instance (an order to dismiss a claim on the basis that no order can be made) was made. This application, the applicant sought to include an amendment that would introduce new evidence. The respondents argued that the application was an attempt to cover its failure to comply with the rules of court.
The court considered whether the application was properly before it. The court observed that the applicant had not obtained leave of the court for the application nor consent from the other parties to amend and file further evidence. It relied on r 13 of the Land Court Rules, No. 1 of 2010 and stated that even if the applicant had obtained leave or consent, the court could not grant the application for absolution so as to assist the applicant to cure a defect of none compliance with the rules of court.
It was held that the amendments were an abuse of the court process because the applicant was in fact curing the deficiencies in his pleadings after he had closed his case. Further, the court found that there were no exceptional circumstances to allow the application.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs to the respondents.
Revenue and public finance – income tax – deduction – assessed loss – special mining lease – assessed loss may only be deducted once and not carried forward
The court considered an application for an interdict to restrain the respondents from interfering with its mining operations. In response the respondents filed a counter-application to stop the applicant from mining on its registered mining claim.
The applicant contended that the respondents illegally encroached on its claims and was effectively stealing ore. The respondents alleged that it was the applicant who, through the shafts which were registered in their name, entered their area of activity and stole ore from them. Both prayed that the court interdict the other from accessing the claim and interfering with their mining activities.
The court in considering both applications, held that for an interdict to be granted, the right which was the subject matter of the main action and which was to be protected by means of interim relief must be clear or prima facie established. The court stated that if the right was only prima facie established, there should be a well-grounded apprehension of irreparable harm if the interdict was not granted and that proof of harm ultimately succeeded in establishing the right.
The court found that the applicant led no evidence to show that it suffered any harm let alone irreparable harm. The respondents on the other hand, satisfied the court that the disputed claim was registered in its name. The court, therefore, found that the applicant had no clear right to the claim. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs and the counter-application was upheld.
The court considered a criminal appeal against the sentence imposed on the accused, who was sentenced to a mandatory 2-year imprisonment for contravening s 368 (1), which dealt with the illegal mining of gold, under the Mines and Minerals Act
Before imposing a mandatory sentence, the court asked the accused if there were any special circumstances relating to the commission of the offence which would result in the requisite sentence not being imposed.
The accused held that his special circumstances were that he did not have enough money for a bus fare. The court found that this did not constitute a special circumstance as poverty desperation could not be excused for the commission of a crime.
The court found that a special circumstance is within the court’s discretion and thus it should be taken to be any extenuating circumstance. Further, that the court should enquire into all circumstances put forward by an accused to validate the aspect of a special circumstance.
The court held that a trial court had to ensure that economic situations leading to commission of crimes under economic circumstances at the time did not operate differently for the rich and for the poor. The court found that the court below should have performed a proper enquiry and that the accused should be given the benefit of the doubt. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded.
The court considered an application for an interim interdict preventing the respondents from interfering with the applicant’s business and to remove their security personnel.
The applicant held a licence to deal in scrap metal, particularly to acquire, sell or deal in copper. Police officers, accompanied by the 1st respondent attended at the applicant’s warehouse and advised of its intention to search for certain materials which were suspected to have been stolen from the 1st respondent. The 1st respondent ensured that security were placed at the premises to guard the warehouse until such time as the warrant had been obtained.
The court stated that the requirements for an interim interdict were: 1) a clear right, 2) a well-grounded apprehension of harm if the relief was not granted, 3) balance of convenience, and 4) absence of any alternative remedy.
The court found that there was an alternative remedy available since dealing in copper was a closely controlled trade and that a holder was obliged to keep proper records of the copper in its possession, thus it should have no difficult in accounting for any loss.
The court weighed the prejudice to the applicant if the relief was refused against the prejudice to the respondent if granted. It observed that the purpose of placing the security was to ensure that the premises was safe and no items were lost. If relief was granted, this protection would be lost. Thus, the balance of convenience did not favour the applicant. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The court considered an application for a declaratory order and an interdict, declaring the defendants’ waste discharges unlawful and constituting pollution, and prohibiting the defendants from discharging their waste material.
The first and third defendants were mining companies and in conducting their business, they discharged their untreated waste material and effluence into a river. The plaintiffs were inhabitants on the banks of the river and relied on it for their subsistence. The plaintiffs contended that the discharge had polluted the water, aquatic life and disturbed the ecosystem.
The defendants opposed the application by bringing a special plea alleging that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter and it ought to be heard by the Environmental Management Agency. Further, that an interdict should not be granted as there was an alternative remedy available under the Environmental Management Act.
The court found that the argument that the court lacked jurisdiction was without merit. The court observed that there was a glaring need for a declaration as to the existence of a legal right claimed by the plaintiffs but this was not argued nor the fact that the EMA could not issue the declaratory orders sought by the plaintiffs although the plaintiffs were interested persons in the subject matter of the suit. The court found the plaintiffs had a direct and substantial interest in the matter and that there was a need for a declaration to the right claimed by the plaintiffs. Accordingly, the application for special plea was dismissed.
In the High Court, an appellant was applying for bail pending his appeal against both conviction and sentence by the trial court, having been convicted of contravening s368(2) as read with s368(4) of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:01] that is, prospecting for gold without a licence. He had been sentenced to two years, being the mandatory minimum penalty for that offence after the magistrate failed to find any special circumstances.
The issue before the court was to exercise its discretion on whether to grant bail to the appellant. The court held that in exercising the discretion on whether or not to grant bail pending appeal, the court must be guided by the prospects of success on appeal and whether there is risk that the applicant would abscond. The judge held that from the court record there was a problem with the rebuttal of the applicant’s defence in the trial court. The applicant had argued that he was carrying a pot and a lid when the police pounced, but state witnesses alleged that he carried a shovel.
The judge was satisfied that the applicant had discharged the responsibility upon him and that the court should indeed exercise its discretion in the applicant’s favour. Accordingly, the judge granted the application on condition that he deposited a sum of $100.00 with the Clerk of Court, he resided at a particular village and to report at a police station twice a week on Mondays and Fridays between 6.00 am and 6.00 pm.
In this case, the High Court considered a murder charge and whether the defence of private defence and/or the defence of property was sufficient to warrant an acquittal.
The accused was employed as a security guard by a private security company. While on duty he shot and killed an illegal diamond panner. Against the murder charge, the accused raised the defence of private defence and the defence of property. The facts were not disputed that the accused and his colleague were attacked by a mob of illegal panners who threatened to kill them. The accused fired a warning shot but the mob persisted until he fired the deadly shot which dispersed the mob.
The court held that the accused was lawfully employed to protect the employer’s assets from theft and entitled by law to protect himself. The court found that in this case a warning shot had been given and the life of the accused was in danger. The court held further that the action in self-defence was not disproportionate or unreasonable. Accordingly, the court found the accused not guilty and he was acquitted.