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 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.
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 appeal at hand flows from an initial application by the respondent for an interdict restraining the second appellant, from directing storm water on to the property of the respondent who cited that the construction of a water drainage system by the second appellant would threaten his properties as they stood lower than the water drainage scheme. He alluded that he foresaw damage to his buildings if the storm water were to come over his properties. A temporary interdict had been granted.
The court in this appeal were tasked with deciding whether the previous court had the jurisdiction to hear the matter and that the interdict be set aside as the second appellant was discharging their statutory obligation as per the Roads Act.
The court found that the Magistrate’s Court’s jurisdiction was confined to claims where the value of the subject matter in dispute did not exceed R2000.00. The court held that in order to give life to the interdict, the second appellant would have to design or construct a new drainage system which would in the courts opinion exceed R2000.00 and therefore the magistrate’s court had no jurisdiction.
Further, the respondent’s averment that a drainage system was necessary for safely leading storm water to its nearest natural drainage point was not opposed by the applicant who merely spoke of his property. The court held that such works were a necessity and the respondents ought to have been allowed to work.
The order was set aside.
This was an appeal against the decision of the lower court ’s offer of E110 000.00 as compensation.
The respondent constructed a sewage pipeline across the property belonging to the appellant. In terms of s 5 of the Water Services Corporation Act of1992, the respondent was obliged to compensate the appellant for the damage sustained on the property. For the damage done to the property the appellant sued the respondent for the payment of E350 000.00, interest and costs of suit.
The issue was whether the appellant was entitled to the sum of E350 000.00 based on the valuation report of an expert as opposed to the sum of value of the property in the sum of E110 000.00.
The court found that while the appellant alleged that the property was rendered of no value and therefore entitled to the sum of E350 000.00 being the market value of the said property, the expert evidence of one witness, stated that the entire property was not rendered valueless by the construction of the sewage pipe, as a percentage of it was still usable. Since the appellant failed to prove what the sum of E350 000.00 claimed represented, the court had no choice than to accept the offer of E110 000.00 from the respondents.
The view of the judge of the Supreme Court was that the reasoning of the learned judge of the lower court was undisputable. Subsequently the judges of the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal with costs.
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 against a decision by the High Court to award the respondents compensation of N22 million, on the ground that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to try the case.
The facts of the case were that as a result of the applicant’s oil exploration activities, crude oil polluted the respondents’ farmlands, fish ponds and streams. The High Court awarded damages against the appellant who then unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appellant contended that ss7(b), 7(3) and 7(5) of the Federal High Court (Amendment) Decree 60 of 1991 ousted the jurisdiction of the High Court on claims pertaining to mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas.
The court considered whether the construction and maintenance of an oil pipeline constituted mining operations and whether the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear such claims pertaining to mining and minerals.
The court found that the construction, operation and maintenance of an oil pipeline by a holder of an oil prospecting licence was an act pertaining to mining operations. As a result the court found that the claims fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court as provided under s230(1)(a) of the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree 107 of 1993. Accordingly, the court set aside the High Court decision on the ground that it was a nullity for want of jurisdiction.
This matter dealt with an appeal from the appellate court. The applicant questioned whether an appellate court could rightly formulate issues arising from a dismissed appeal in the determination of a separate appeal in the same case.
The appellant, discovered that the access road to his garage had been blocked by a trench that had been dug across it by the 1st respondent. He claimed to have suffered damages in lost revenue during the closure of the access road and was awarded special damages jointly, against the second and third respondents.
He appealed this decision claiming to have suffered more than the general public but was denied the appeal. He claimed that that the refusal of the trial court Judge to visit the place of interest affected the outcome and that the latter court had been wrong in formulating that particular issue.
This court determined that the Court of Appeal had merely referred to the fact that a visit to the place of interest would have assisted the trial court in determining whether the trench had really caused an obstruction of such immense proportions, as alleged. The court was assessing the appellant's evidence as a whole in order to decide whether he, had in fact suffered over and above what was possibly suffered by the general public
Further that the appellant had failed to prove that he had suffered damages over and above that possibly suffered by the public, or that the first respondent had caused such damage.
This was an appeal against the decision of the trial court to award damages to the respondent in absence of expert evidence.
The appeal originated from an action for damages by the respondent. The respondent contended that the appellant’s seismic operations involving setting off explosive charges underground, caused cracks on the cement walls and concrete floors of his building.
The court determined whether the trial court erred in its holding. The court noted that the plaintiff led no expert evidence, while an expert for the defence testified that the explosive charges could not have damaged the respondent’s building. It was further noted that both parties disagreed on the extent of the damage on the respondent’s building.
The court held that expert evidence was necessary to connect the damage with seismic operations. The court also held that the trial court erred in its holding since the plaintiff failed to discharge the onus on him to establish such connection.
The court noted that there was a serious conflict in the description of the building; and relied on the holding in Seismograph Service (Nigeria) Limited v Esiso Akporuovo (1974) 6 SC to hold that a proper evaluation of the evidence required a judicial inspection of the building.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.
This Supreme Court case revolved around exploration prospecting licenses (EPL) provided by the first appellant, to the second appellant and the respondent over different mining groups of nuclear resources but in the same land.
At the High Court, the respondent challenged the first appellant’s action (the responsible minister) for giving prospecting and mining rights to another company over an area that the respondent had an EPL agreement to operate in. The High Court had quashed the first appellant’s decision in favour of the second appellant, asserting that the first appellant in offering the EPL agreement to the second appellant did not consider the interest of the respondent as required per sections 68(h) and 69(2)(c)(i) of the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act of 1992. Aggrieved, the appellants appealed.
On appeal, the main issue for consideration was whether the first appellant was justified to issue EPL over an area that the respondent had pre-existing EPL. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the High Court stating that the first appellant was duty-bound to take into consideration the provisions of ss 68(h) and 69(2)(c)(i) of the act which requires regard to be given on what impact will the additional activities have on the existing EPL holders. The Supreme Court held that natural justice requires that a hearing must be given to the person(s) already holding EPL over an area likely to be affected with subsequent EPLs. In conclusion, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision and dismissed the appeal with costs.
In this Supreme Court case, the first respondent applied for the permit to drill boreholes in the Khan River for uranium mining activities. Subsequently, the second respondent granted the rights to use the boreholes and the water to the first respondent allegedly in the exercise of its powers provided under the Water Act of 1954. The appellant’s case against the respondents was that the wildlife on its farm depended on the naturally occurring underground water to support natural habitats. Overusing the water from the rare sources in the area would, therefore, disturb the ecosystem.
At the High Court level, the issue was to determine whether under the act the second respondent had the powers to grant such rights. The High Court held that the powers to grant such rights were limited to subterranean waters. Moreover, the court held that since under the act sections 27, 28 and 30, the president proclaims the underground waters. The president had never declared the areas allocated to the first respondent as such the permits were a nullity. As a result, there was nothing to be determined by the court in favour of the appellant.
On appeal, the Supreme Court agreed that the permit issued was a nullity. However, it held that the High Court ought to have decided the case in favour of the appellant since, in law, illegal acts can create reviewable actions. Finally, the Supreme Court upheld the appellant’s claim.
The applicants sought to review and set aside the decision of the first respondent to cancel a lease agreement concluded by the 4th applicant after the 4th applicant disregarded environmental standards on wastewater discharge per the agreement.
The court determined whether the first to third applicants’ irregular appointment as liquidators deprived them of locus standi (capacity) to seek review. It was held that these applicants had the required locus standi.
The court also determined whether the application was brought in reasonable time given the delay in filing the application after becoming aware of the cancellation of the lease. It was noted that there is no prescribed time for the institution of review proceedings. However, the court found that the applicants failed to explain the delay and held it to be unreasonable.
The court held that the relationship between the 4th applicant and first respondent was a contractual relationship. The court considered whether the Municipality validly cancelled the lease agreement before the liquidators’ election to continue with the lease agreement. The court considered clause 16.1 of the agreement and observed that the agreement required no formalities for cancellation. It applied the test of whether a reasonable person would conclude that the proper performance will not be forthcoming and held that the Municipality had a right to cancel the lease.
It was also held that the review relief sought was unsustainable since the decision to cancel the agreement did not constitute reviewable administrative action despite being made by a person who would ordinarily perform administrative functions.
The applicants abandoned their claim for declaratory order to exercise an improvement lien and moved for amendment of the relief in prayer 3. However, the amendment was not requested or granted. Hence the two prayers were dismissed.
Accordingly, the matter was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an appeal against a judgment of the Gauteng Local Division where the appellants refusal to supply information to the respondent about their industrial activities with possible environmental impacts, was declared invalid and set aside.
Following two requests by the respondent, the appellant refused to give them any information based on a failure to meet the threshold requirements of s 50(1)(a), read with s 53 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000. Further, that their reliance on s 24 of the Constitution was too broad and in conflict with the principle of subsidiarity. I.e. where legislation giving effect to constitutional rights exists, the provisions of the legislation is where the rights should be located.
The court found that the word ‘required’ in s 50(1)(a) of PAIA should be construed as ‘reasonably required’ in the prevailing circumstances for the exercise or protection of the rights by the requestor. Thus, insofar as the environment is concerned, collaborative governance was a virtue.
The court took into consideration the nature of the appellant’s operations and its consequences. The appellant had a reputation for being a major polluter in the areas in which it conducted operations.
The court found that the information was required to make a decision on future actions and could find no error in the court’s reasoning that led it to an order compelling the appellant to provide the requested information and that there is no room for secrecy.
The court considered an appeal against a judgment dismissing the appellant’s exception.
The appellant was a property development company and sought to develop property in low-lying areas adjacent to the Disa river. In order to develop these properties the appellant began to lift these properties to four meters above sea level by dumping waste matter and filling in on the properties. This resulted in the 2nd respondent issuing directives to the appellant in terms of section 31A of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1989 (“ECA”), which required the appellant, at its own expense, to engage a freshwater ecologist and other environmental impacts of their actions.
The appellant complied with the directive but alleged that the directive had prevented it from undertaking any further development on the properties that were below the 1:100-year flood line, as well as the properties that were within the wetland boundary as surveyed by the ecologist.
The court below held that section 34(1) of the ECA provided a right to claim for compensation where loss suffered by a claimant arose from limitations placed on the purposes for which land may be used.
This court found that when the directives were issued, the constitutional and statutory obligations to prevent harm to the environment were met. Thus, section 34 of the ECA could not have been directed at providing compensation for actions taken under section 31A as those provisions regulate harmful activities against the environment.
This case concerned the obligation of public authorities to prevent and remediate damage caused by natural disasters. The applicants argued that the respondents had constitutional and statutory duties to remediate the flooded area and to reasonably prevent future harm. They further contended that the respondents fell short of these duties. This was not contested by the respondents and, in fact, largely confirmed by an internal memo.
The High Court considered whether the application for a mandamus interdict ought to be enforced against the respondents following their alleged failure to remediate significant damage to the applicants as a result of flooding, which led to blocked culverts, exposed them to increased risk of future inundations, as well as increased levels of water pollution.
The court held that the applicants had a constitutional right to a safe environment and that the respondents had legal duties to remediate the flooded area and reasonably prevent future harm. Given that no post-disaster rehabilitative work had been conducted and no explanation for this failure had been provided, the court found that the respondents fell short of their duties. It further held that the constitutional rights of the applicant outweighed any inconvenience for the respondents to fulfill their duties.
Consequently, the court directed the first respondent to immediately remediate the flooded area and to clean the culverts to prevent future damage. The first responded was further ordered to provide the applicants with regular feedback concerning its implementation of the orders.
This case considered an application for an exception to the plaintiffs’ particulars of claim. The plaintiff’s claim was based on the alleged degradation of the environment caused by mining activities conducted over a number of years.
The court considered whether the provisions of s28 of the National Environmental Management Principles (NEMA) were retrospective.
The court applied the common law rebuttable presumption against retrospectivity. In the circumstances, the court considered the nature of the duty; enforcement of the duty; what the legislature intended; when the transactions were completed and other alleged indications of retrospectivity. The court found that the presumption against retrospectivity was not disturbed, and was not applicable in this instance because the legislature could not have intended such.
The court considered whether there was proper or substantial compliance with s 28(12) of NEMA. As with the first claim, the court applied the principle of retrospectivity. Accordingly, the court held that the exception to the first alternative claim that it lacks averments necessary to sustain a cause of action must also be upheld because it avers retrospectivity.
In terms of the second alternative claim, the court held that the exception should be dismissed.
Regarding the third and fourth alternative claims, which were based on regulations that no longer had the force of law, the court found them to lack averments necessary to sustain a cause of action. Accordingly, the court upheld the third and fourth exceptions which related to these claims.