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 a review in the High Court concerning two accused persons who had been charged with and convicted for contravening s 368(2) as read with s 368 (4) of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05] for prospecting for minerals when they were not holders of licences or permits.
The issue facing the court was to determine whether the accused persons, being widows with minor children, were acting under special circumstances, as the trial magistrate had found. The court held that the learned trial magistrate completely misdirected himself in holding that the circumstances of the accused persons amounted to special circumstances, as there was nothing out of the ordinary about being a widow with minor children to look after. The court also held that the learned magistrate’s line of reasoning was faulty in calling that widows and widowers with minor children should be excused when they break the law so as to fend for the minor children, since it was a recipe for anarchy as there were so many widows and widowers in the country.
Consequently, the sentence imposed by the trial magistrate was not allowed to stand and, therefore, set aside. The matter was sent back to the trial court to recall the two accused persons and impose the sentence of two years imprisonment as mandated by law. Since both accused persons had already served four months imprisonment in the form of community service, they were to serve an effective term of 20 months imprisonment.
This was a case in the High Court where two accused persons were convicted on their own pleas of guilty to contravening s 368 of the Mines and Minerals Act by the Provincial Magistrate.
Having found special circumstances as would entitle the trial court to impose a sentence other than the mandatory one provided in the act; the magistrate sentenced each of the accused persons to 24 months imprisonment of which 12 months imprisonment were suspended for 5 years on condition of good future behaviour. The remaining 12 months were suspended on condition they each complete 420 hours of community service.
The issue before the court was to determine the special circumstances as found by the trial court. The judge applied the rule of Judge J Ebrahim in S v Mbewe and others 1988 (1) ZLR 7(H) to make the determination. The judge’s view was that the trial court erred because the issues put up by the accused were mitigating factors of general application which clearly did not amount to special circumstances at all.
Consequently, the judge ordered that the conviction of the two accused persons stood, and set aside the finding of the trial magistrate that there were special circumstances; and the sentence. The judge also ordered the matter to be sent back to the trial court for it to recall the accused persons and impose the appropriate sentence according to law by deducting from it 53 days equivalent to 420 hours community service already served.
The court considered an application to review a sentence imposed on the accused. The accused was charged with contravening s 3(1) of the Gold Trade Act by virtue of being found in possession of 0.62g of gold valued at $20.62. The accused pleaded guilty and was convicted. The lower court imposed a short sentence whereas as the act stipulated of not less than 5 years for persons found guilty of the offence, unless special circumstances existed showing cause why the mandatory sentence should not be imposed. The magistrate relied on special circumstances pleaded in mitigation.
The special circumstances referred to by the accused were that his wife was in hospital and was going to undergo surgery and that he committed the offence to raise hospital fees and money for the surgery
The court found that these were not special circumstances as envisaged by the act but that what the accused relied on was a common occurrence and did not entail that persons in such situations ought to resort to crime. The court held further, that his illegal action was not a solution to this problem nor would $20 be enough to pay the hospital bills.
The court held that there was no reason why the mandatory sentence should not be imposed. Accordingly, the court set aside the sentence imposed by the trial court and remitted it back to impose the mandatory sentence.
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.
This was an application for the discharge of the accused persons for lack of evidence pursuant to s 198 (3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The state had alleged that the accused persons were acting in common purpose through a series of fraudulent misrepresentations to the Government of Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and induced ZMDC to enter into a joint venture agreement of diamond mining with Core Mining (Pvt) Ltd. They fronted Benny Steinmeitz Group Resources (BSGR) as its guarantor and on that representation, the government approved a contract, it never would have otherwise approved.
Relying on the parole evidence rule that posits that parties are strictly bound by the four corners of the contractual document and nothing outside it, the court held that both government and ZMDC cannot be heard to complain that they were duped into signing the contractual document under the mistaken belief that BSGR was standing as guarantor for Core Mining when the contractual document makes no mention of BSGR at all.
Court further held that the state closed its case without leading any evidence pertaining to the misrepresentations allegedly made by the accused concerning the due diligence exercise on Core Mining. That misrepresentation is a vital component of the crime of fraud without which the crime cannot be committed. The state having failed to establish a prima facie case against the accused, it was accordingly ordered that both accused be acquitted and discharged.
This was a criminal trial in which the accused was charged with two counts for contravening the Mines and Minerals Act and the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act.
The court determined whether the accused misrepresented that he had the mandate to sell a special grant which prejudiced the buyers. In finding the accused guilty of fraud, the court pointed out that the accused mispresented that he had the authority to deal with a coal mining concession held under a special grant. Through the misrepresentation, the accused personally benefitted from the proceeds. The court further pointed out that the moment the accused benefitted from the criminal activity, the property became proceeds of crime. The accused further received occupation of the immovable property which he was not entitled.
On the criminal charge against the accused for ceding a mining right to a third person without the consent of the president, the court held that the section does not create a criminal offence. It merely sets out the characteristics of the special right and how it can be assigned.
The accused was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, with 2 years suspended for 5 years. Further 4 years were suspended on condition that the accused paid restitution to the complainant. Effectively, the accused was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.
The accused was charged on several counts for the unlawful possession of gold without a licence, smuggling and the use of a vehicle with secret or disguised places for concealing goods. In his defence, the accused stated that he was not aware of the presence of gold on the vehicle having borrowed it from another person who was a gold dealer.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether the accused person had knowledge of the existence of the gold. The court noted that the burden of proof in criminal matters rests on the state and that the state is required to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The court found that the state failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove that the accused indeed had knowledge of the existence of the gold and the compartments.
Given these circumstances the court gave the accused person the benefit of the doubt and he was acquitted on all three counts.
The court considered a criminal appeal, where the applicants had been charged for contravening s7(1)(a) or (b) of the Communal Land Act, by occupying or using communal land without lawful authority. The applicants pleaded guilty and were convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $5000 or 30 days in prison. The appellants appealed the conviction on the ground that the court committed an irregularity by failing to proceed in terms of the correct procedure.
They contended that by entering a guilty plea, the court had a duty to safeguard the fair trial rights of the accused by adopting a procedure which was most likely to suggest a defence where there was one.
The court considered whether the appellant’s conviction was lawful. It observed that with unrepresented accused persons, there was the ever-present likelihood that out of ignorance of the law, a person would admit to charges of a complex nature out of a desire to draw sympathy of the police or the courts and the onus was upon the court to choose a procedure which would have given the appellants a possible defence.
The court found that the conviction was wrong and remitted the matter back to the lower court. In addition, the court below would be required to take cognizance of s 16 of the Act which required that following a conviction, an order for eviction be granted. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded.