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 Supreme Court case concerned an appeal against the ruling of the High Court that found the appellant guilty primarily on counts of: (1) theft of unpolished diamonds in contravention of section 74 of Act 13 of 1999; alternatively, possession of unpolished diamonds in contravention of section 30(11) of Act 13 of 1999; (2) robbery; (3) malicious damage to property; and 4) escaping before being locked up in contravention of section 51(1) of Act 51 of 1977.
The appellant was primarily charged in the High Court for stealing unpolished diamonds and fleeing arrest. He was convicted on all the counts and sentenced to both a jail term and payment of fine
The appellant felt aggrieved and appealed to the Supreme Court mainly on the ground that the prosecution side failed to establish that the mining company was the lawful owner of the alleged stolen diamond.
The court held that the evidence obtained from the surveillance cameras clearly showed that the unpolished diamond that the appellant was trying to steal was discovered and recovered from him. The court held that he was caught right at the exit of the mining site. So generally, the mining company was the one licensed to exploit and trade the diamond in that area the court a quo was justified to take a judicial notice that the diamonds belonged to the complainant.
The court therefore refrained from disturbing both the conviction and the sentence of the High Court, so the appeal was dismissed.
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.
This was a Supreme Court case that revolved around an agreement between the parties which was suddenly terminated. The agreement demanded that the respondent to import oil resources on behalf of the Government of Namibia. The arrangement proved to be failure as the cost of importing petroleum was high against the market price. Consequently, the first appellant, acting in ministerial capacity decided to end the agreement. The first respondent felt aggrieved and filed a suit in the High Court, asking it to review the decision of the cabinet that terminated the said contract.
As such, the main issue, in this case, was whether the cabinet of the government of the Republic of Namibia acted lawfully when it revoked the mandate of the respondents to import petroleum products. The High Court in determining this issue held that the cabinet had no legally tenable reason(s) to end the contract in question.
However, on appeal, the Supreme Court held that under the Namibian Constitution in article 27(2), the executive power of the Republic of Namibia vests in the president and the cabinet. It further held that under the article, the cabinet has the role of supervising the activities of the government departments. Since the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents are government parastatals the cabinet justifiably exercised its regulatory powers in the best interest of the Namibian people.
The Supreme Court thus overturned the decision of the High Court and accordingly upheld the appeal.
This was an appeal from the High Court to the Supreme Court. The case concerned a ministerial notice stating that nuclear energy prospecting licenses regarding certain areas will not be provided. The appellant was allegedly an aspiring applicant. He thus felt aggrieved with the notice.
In the High Court, it was held that the appellant lacked legal capacity to challenge the notice as the notice did not create any triable issue. Aggrieved, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.
Thus, the main issue for determination was whether the respondent's notice exempting certain areas from being prospected for nuclear resources was unconstitutional. The appellant’s argument was that the denial of the prospecting license violated his constitutional right to work.
In response, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision, but it disagreed with the High Court that the respondent lacked the legal capacity. According to the Supreme Court, the appellant would have been successful if the minister had no statutory powers to issue the notice or if the process was procedural. However, the minister had such powers under section 122(1) of the Mineral (Prospecting and Mining) Act of 1992. Consequently, the Court held that it cannot order the minister to issue the license if the notice is still in existence. Also, the Supreme Court held that the constitutional provision on the right to work does not mean that people can conduct mining activities without being regulated given the environmental challenges.
Following this, the appellant's case was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an application for a mandamus by the applicant, as a result of the respondents having applied for the consolidation and rezoning of 2 plots of land. The respondents had their application conditionally approved upon submitting an engineer’s drawing for the erection of retaining walls as part of flood protection and to create 54 client accessible parking bays.
The court considered if there was a contravention of s 44(5) of the applicant’s town planning scheme in accordance with the Town Planning Ordinance No 18 of 1954 as amended. Without drawing plans being submitted to the applicant for approval, the respondents admitted that a temporary corrugated iron wall was erected on the riverbank which was next to the two properties. On their own admission, the respondents did not create the 54 accessible parking bays.
The court found that the respondents failed to adhere to the condition of their approved application, so they were ordered to remove the illegally constructed corrugated iron wall, to submit an engineer’s drawing for the erection of the retaining walls to be constructed on the properties, within three months of the order. They were also ordered to construct the retaining wall within six months from the date of the approval by the applicant of the engineering drawing, as well as to remove all building materials and rubble from one plot in order to create 54 accessible parking bays on one of the properties. Respondents were ordered to pay applicant’s costs.
This Supreme Court case revolved around a compromise agreement between the fourth respondent and the appellant. The fourth respondent, a registered mining company, was going bankrupt and its management was entrusted to the liquidator. The liquidator then granted the appellant the right to treat stockpiles of ore at the mine to raise money to pay the creditors. The appellant then attempted to have all mining activities registered under its name. In doing so, the appellant misrepresented the facts to the third respondents without involving the fourth respondent stating that it paid the creditors their dues and as such, it was entitled to have mining activities registered under its name. However, the fourth respondent succeeded in establishing that the appellant was lying. This led the third respondent to cancel the appellant’s falsely obtained mineral rights. The High Court agreed with the respondents that the appellant's mineral rights over the plot in dispute were justifiably cancelled. The appellant felt aggrieved by the court’s judgement and appealed to the Supreme Court.
The issue for determination was whether the appellant was allowed to register mining rights under its name and whether the third respondent erred in cancelling its rights.
The Supreme Court held that agreements cannot be valid if consent was obtained through misrepresentation. Consequently, it found that the appellant was unjustified and supported the third respondent’s decision to cancel the falsely obtained rights.
The plaintiff in this case claimed restitution for a breach of contract. The court determined whether the defendant was in breach of contract for failing to install a working borehole in a geohydrological environment where the plaintiff's farm was located.
The defendant raised a counterclaim that the plaintiff had accepted that work was completed but failed to pay the balance of the agreed amount. The court applied the rule in Du Plessis v Ndjavera that the plaintiff is under no obligation to perform before defendant has completed his performance.
The court held that the defendant was at fault for failing to assess the soil formation in the area and ended up using the incorrect drilling method. The court observed that the defendant admitted to using the riskier direct flush air percussion instead of the mud rotary method to save on expenses and thus failed to complete performance.
Accordingly, the court held that the defendant was in breach of contract and the plaintiff was entitled to cancel the
agreement and claim restitution. The counterclaim was also 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 the High Court’s decision that declared the land tax imposed under ss 76 to 80 of the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act as constitutional.
The court determined whether s 76 contravened the constitutional principal of separation of powers which gives the National Assembly power to provide for revenue and taxation.
The appellant contended that the law in question went against separation of powers by devolving legislative power to a minister.
The court held that s 76 did not conflict with the constitutional principles of separation powers as the power of the National Assembly had been exercised by the stipulation of a tax as authorised by the Constitution. The court found that the only role of the minister was to set a rate according to a procedure set out in the regulations. The court stated further that in any event, this rate was subject to the approval of the National Assembly and as such, no independent power was vested in the minister.
The court noted that the regulations that were challenged set out how the land was to be administered. The court held that the appellant’s claim lacked sufficient particularity required for pleadings in constitutional litigation.
Accordingly, the court held that the appellant had failed to establish how these regulations contravened constitutional provisions and dismissed the appeal. The court also dismissed the appellant’s prayer with no order as to costs.
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.
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.
Constitutional law – Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013 – Declaration of Rights – right to water (s 77) – legislative measures to ensure supply of potable water – duty of urban council to ensure water distributed fairly
Human rights – right to water – legislative measures to ensure supply of potable water – duty of urban council to ensure water distributed fairly
Environment – environmental impact assessment – requirement for – such requirement additional to considerations for issue of mining permit
In this case the applicants sought an urgent interdict preventing the respondents from demolishing homes in the Mangwaneni, Manzana and Makholokholo, through which the new construction of the New Mbabane Bypass road was carried out.
First, the court had to consider whether the matter was urgent and held that applicants needed to prove the matter’s urgency. The court found that the applicants had shown the urgency of the matter in their founding affidavit.
Second, the respondents argued that the application did not adequately describe the ninth applicant and that it could therefore not be admitted. Considering existing jurisprudence, the court held that a relaxed approach should be taken on the issue to not inhibit public interest litigation. Consequently, the court condoned the citation of the parties.
Finally, the respondents argued that the applicants did not fulfill the conditions for an urgent interdict because they could seek compensation from the committee responsible for compensating resettled people. The applicants claimed that the committee no longer existed. Thus, the court had to consider whether the committee responsible for compensating the people who had been resettled by the project was still active. Given this situation, the court decided to postpone the matter, ordering the applicants to submit their claims to the secretary of the committee within seven days and ordering the committee to address these claims within 21 days. The secretary of the committee was also ordered to submit a report to the court. The court postponed all outstanding matters until then.
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.
This case concerned an appeal to the High Court by the appellant who subsequently made no further effort to prosecute his appeal. However, the judge was not prepared to leave the matter in that unsatisfactory state and decided to have the appellant and the second accused before the lower court, appear before the court and show cause as to why their sentences should not be increased. The two had been charged with selling uncut diamonds in contravention of s 6 (1)(b) of the Precious Stones Order 1970 and subsequently convicted.
The law applied was s 6(4) of the Precious Stones Order which specified the maximum limit of fine and imprisonment for offenders in this case, for the practice of dealing in uncut diamonds without authority. The judge decided that in his case that justice sternly demanded that illegal schemes to get rich quickly could not be tolerated by the courts. The appellant’s fine was increased in addition to a sentence of 6 months' imprisonment in default of payment.
The court exercised its entitlement to revisional powers to correct the inadequate sentence imposed upon the other offender in the lower court. The judge ordered that in addition to the fine that he had paid, and month spent in prison, the original sentence to imprisonment for twelve months be wholly suspended for three years on the condition that he was not convicted of any offence under the same law.
The court considered an appeal, based on a judgment from the court below, the issue of importance being political patronage by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA). This issue stemmed from a decision made by the Interim Political Authority (IPA), which sought to eliminate political patronage on the basis that the IPA (respondent) had the power to declare certain conduct political patronage.
Political patronage has been defined as a situation in which one person is rewarded for supporting a particular politician. The respondents argued that the involvement of members of parliament in the work of the DMA had nothing to do with political patronage, and rather to do with the efficient discharge of obligations, thus to feed people during times of famine and natural disasters. Further, that the distribution was done by constituencies, and thus due to members of parliament being elected by the public, they had an intimate knowledge of their communities needs and the constituencies needs in terms of resources.
The court found that this argument was eminently sensible and does not contain an element of political patronage. Further, that political patronage had to be established objectively. The fact that the IPA dictated that conduct was political patronage doesn’t make it so, and to hold this position would amount to an untenable position. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded
The court considered an urgent application regarding quarrying activities, wherein the applicants sought, amongst several other grounds, to interdict the 1st and 2nd respondent from carrying out blasting and quarrying activities, pending the finalisation of the damage caused to the applicants’ houses.
The 3rd respondent operated a quarry for materials needed for the construction of mountain roads and in order to perform their job, blasting was required in order to loosen up the materials. Prior to the commencement of the work photographs of the houses within 500-meter radius of the quarry would be taken, in order to monitor and evaluate the effect of such blasting.
The respondents argued that the applicant had refused to have the liaison committee survey their buildings to detect the damage incurred due to the blasting.
The court considered whether the matter was urgent. It found that even with the applicants’ refusal, the buildings had been photographed and numbered to facilitate the assessment of damage following the blast.
On determining whether the matter was inherently urgent, the court found that the applicants were at all times aware that the blasting had occurred, yet they did nothing. On this basis, the court found that the applicants rights were not being impaired and as such their interdict was not granted. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to dismiss an application for review of an application for the setting aside of a decision made by the second respondent, the Member of the Executive Committee of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga (the MEC), and upheld on appeal by the first respondent, the Director General, Environmental Management, Mpumalanga, (the DG). The decision in question was to permit the construction of a filling station in White River. The appellant contended that the permission was given contrary to the provisions of the law.
The court observed that all environmental precautions had been taken into account by the scoping report. It found that the land had been rezoned by the local authority from special area to a business area, based on need and desirability. The court held that that the key factors’ in deciding to grant the application in the circumstance were: firstly, that the property had been rezoned from “special” to “business”; secondly, that no potential threatened plant and animal species were recorded during the site investigation; and, that all identified and perceived impacts were satisfactorily dealt with in the scoping report and the recommendations proposed were sufficient to minimize any negative impacts. Since all this were observed. The appellant case was dismissed with cost.
The court considered a petition whereby the petitioners averred that they were land owners on which a wind farm was to be developed. The respondents bought the project rights from the initial owners whose application for the construction of the farm had been successful and sought to expand the farm. They obtained permission from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) by renewing the initial project application.
The petitioners alleged that this was against the provisions of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act and the Constitution as the expansion was not implemented in accordance with the law and would violate their constitutional rights to a clean and healthy environment and their rights to own property. The expansion entailed the farm would encroaching onto their surrounding properties.
The issue faced by the court was whether the expansion was legal and whether the rights of the petitioners had been violated or not.
The court held that the expansion could not be logically carried out at the site captured in the original Environmental Impact Assessment and the EIA study report initially filed with NEMA. It could therefore, not be renewed. They had to file a new application and therefore the renewal of the application was contrary to law.
This failure to adhere to the EIA regulations potentially threatened the petitioners’ right to a clean and healthy environment but not their right to own property as the farm did not make use of their land nor did it threaten to use it up.
The court considered a petition against the government’s failure to recognize the petitioner’s right to property and the right to just compensation when it deprived a person of their property. The case involved the construction of a standard gauge railway (SGR) through private land. The petitioner contended that his right to property and just compensation had been violated and that the third respondent had failed to ensure that the appropriate environmental and social impact study of the SGR was undertaken.
The court considered firstly, whether the compulsory land acquisition was carried out in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and secondly, whether the construction of the SGR was in compliance with environmental laws and the Constitution.
The court found that the first respondent had accorded the land owners with the requisite notices and at the enquiry, as required by law, many obliged to the acquisition and were paid. Further, that the petitioner’s reliance on a repealed act was unsupported, and that he had not shown any substantive section of the Land Acquisition Act that was misapplied by the respondents through the process of compulsory acquisition, thus there was no violation of the Constitution.
The court found that an environmental impact assessment had been conducted and that the respondents took into account, all environmental considerations including sustainable development. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed.
The court considered a petition stop the development of flats within a residential area. The property was initially planned as a single dwelling unit but the developer applied for change of user to multiple dwelling units which was approved. The petitioners claimed that the change of user was irregularly granted and claimed that approval from the National Environmental Management Agency was improper because the county government approved the change of user despite multiple objections from the public.
The petitioners sought an order declaring that the decision of the first respondent to change the user was unconstitutional and null and void. Further, that the approval of the re-development amounted to a dereliction of duties.
The court considered 1) whether a proper Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted, 2) whether the process of planning approval was lawfully adhered to and, 3) whether there was a violation of the petitioners' constitutional rights.
It held that the NEMA processes were casually done as objections to the project, were not given a hearing and were not considered before the decision to allow the project was made.
Further, it held that there was no consultation with interested parties as was required by the law. This meant that no proper EIA was carried out and therefore the process of planning approval was legally flawed.
As a result of this, the court held that claims for violations of the right to a clean and healthy environment were breached or at the very least, under threat.
This was an appeal against a decision of the High Court to hold the appellants in contempt of an order of the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, issued to the mining companies concerned under s 19(3) of the National Water Act 36 of 1998.
The appellants contended the directives were incapable of implementation because they were so vague. Consequently, the respondent obtained orders from court a quo, compelling the appellant to provide an amount of money as contribution to execute the ministerial order. Following the order, the appellant failed to pay the money. As a result, the appellants applied to have the appellants for contempt.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether an order of the court ordering money to be paid could raise a question of contempt. In overruling the decision of court below, the supreme court stated that it was only where performance of an act was ordered – ad factum praestandum – that conviction for contempt of court was permitted as a means of enforcing performance. It held that contempt proceedings were therefore inappropriate in the circumstances. In conclusion, the court stated that an order that a person was in contempt of court, which carries with it criminal sanctions, should be made only where the court order allegedly flouted was clear and capable of enforcement. Accordingly, the appeal was upheld.