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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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 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.
Environment – environmental impact assessment – requirement for – such requirement additional to considerations for issue of mining permit
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 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.
The court determined the threshold for public participation required for the coal-mining project. The court noted that there was no litmus test for determining when a court could conclude that there was adequate public participation. However, the court found that it is necessary to consider the bona fides of the public actor, the nature of the subject matter, the length and quality of the engagement and the number of mechanisms used to reach as many people as possible. On consideration of these factors, the court held that the government complied with the requirement for public participation in the project.
Secondly, the court noted that the non-involvement of the Kitui County Government in the Coal mining project was explained by the fact that the County Government was not in existence at the time of the award of the Concessioning Tender.
Thirdly, the court found the apprehension of deprivation of property to be speculative as the Government had indicated that it would compensate and resettle the affected parties.
Fourthly, the court held that the petitioners could not invoke the court’s jurisdiction to question either the procedural propriety or substantive merits of the procurement process since they did not follow the procurement procedures.
Fifthly, the court found it unnecessary to determine the issue on violation of the right to information, since the Government had supplied a copy of the Benefits Sharing Agreement to all the parties. Finally, the court held that the petitioners failed to prove environmental harm.
Accordingly, the petition was dismissed.
The petitioner argued that the first respondent violated his right to a clean and healthy environment, by leasing out property to the third respondent for the construction of a telecommunications base transmission mast.
Firstly, the court determined the jurisdiction of the court to decide on a dispute concerning the issuance of an Environmental Impact Assessment License despite the existence of an avenue of redress at the National Environmental Tribunal (NET). The court noted that the dispute could was on one hand based on the issuance of the EIA license by NEMA but it was also based on the violation of the right to health. The court therefore relied on s 13 (3) of the Environment and Land Court Act and held that the court had the requisite jurisdiction.
Secondly, the court determined whether the construction of a telecommunications base transmission mast on property adjacent to that of the petitioner violated the petitioner’s right to a clean and healthy environment. The court noted that the third respondent had not obtained that license thus the mast was constructed illegally and that the 4th respondent had a duty to commence investigation and take necessary legal action.
It was further held that, where a procedure for the protection of the environment was provided for in law but was not followed a presumption would to be drawn that the project violated the right to a clean and healthy environment, or was one that had potential to harm the environment.
Accordingly, the petition was allowed.
The matter dealt with an application seeking an order that the defendant be temporarily restrained from erecting, constructing and or use of the public toilet on the beach front near the plaintiff’s resort.
The court considered whether the plaintiff established a prima facie case with a probability of success to warrant the grant of a temporary injunction. The principle of public participation informs the requirement of submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment Report which gives individuals such as the applicant a voice in issues that may bear directly on their health and welfare and entitlement to a clean environment. In the absence of the report for the construction of the toilets approved by the National Environment Management Authority, the court held that the plaintiff established a prima facie case with chances of success.
The court considered whether the construction of the public toilet next to the resort would cause adverse environmental effect thus devaluing the plaintiff's otherwise prime property. The court has the constitutional duty, at Article 70 (2) of the Constitution to prevent, stop or discontinue any act or omissions that is harmful to the environment. Accordingly, the court held that unless the order of injunction was granted as prayed, the plaintiff, and the users of the beach and the ocean were likely to suffer irreparable damage if the toilets were used before proper mechanisms were put in place to mitigate the environmental pollution that may have occurred.
The application was granted.
The court considered an appeal against the first respondent’s decision to approve the second respondent’s construction, of a light industry, namely a metal fabricating workshop.
The appellants argued that the approval was granted without public consultation and that the construction would interfere with their quiet occupation of their residences. They alleged that the construction would produce noise, emit fumes and encourage the setting up of other industries in a high class residential area. The first respondent argued that this claim was not one for noise or air pollution, but construction, and it did not fall within the scope of its functions but that of the municipal council. The second respondent argued that all relevant consultations had taken place prior to the approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) project report.
The tribunal considered the grounds of appeal and observed that the purpose of the EIA process under the act was to assess the likely, significant impacts of a proposed development project on the environment. It stated that the assessment included air quality, water quality, traffic, noise, and other features of the environment but these considerations were not affected by whether an area is designated as a residential area.
The tribunal held that, there was no evidence to show that the second respondent’s development, would adversely impact on the environment, in the area, in ways that could not be mitigated by the measures that had been proposed by the second respondent in the EIA report.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The applicant intended to erect a petrol station and submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report to the respondent for approval. The respondent did not, however, respond to the report within three months, as envisaged in the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act. The applicant decided to proceed with the project, as permitted by section 58 (9) of the Act.
The respondent stopped the project and handed the applicant a letter to the effect that the proposal for the project had been rejected.
The applicant applied for judicial review orders and submitted that the respondent had failed to conduct public hearings to assess the acceptability of the proposal. Thus, the respondent could not interfere with the applicant’s statutory discretion under section 58 (9) of the Act.
The court had to decide whether the rejection by the respondent was binding and if the respondent had sufficient grounds for the rejection.
The court held that the remedy of judicial review deals with the process, but not the merits of the decision by a tribunal, therefore the respondent’s submission that the applicant should have appealed to the tribunal if aggrieved, was untenable.
Further, that members of the public were denied sufficient opportunity to respond and make their comments. The applicant could not blame the respondents for failing to comply with section 58 (9). The delay in giving the decision was only one month, which in view of the court, was reasonable in the circumstances.
The applicants sought orders of temporary injunction and injunction to restrain the respondents from using the suit property as a wedding ground or place of entertainment of wedding parties and to restrain the respondents from carrying out actions that constitute noise pollution within the meaning of the Environment and Management Co-ordination (Noise and Excessive Vibration) (Control) Regulations 2009 (Legal Notice No.6/2009).
The applicants contended that no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted and notice of change of user was not served on the residents in accordance with the Physical Planning Act. On the other hand, the respondents contended that the applicants had no locus standi as the association was illegal.
The court found that the applicants, being neighbors to the suit property, were aggrieved by the respondents’ actions and had locus to bring the case.
The court noted that the respondents had no EIA license but only a letter of approval from NEMA that contained conditions which they had not complied with. The court also found that the publication of change of user was insufficient as it was done in newspapers of limited circulation and the residents were not personally served. Court further found that the respondents had not complied with Legal Notice No.6/2009.
Accordingly, the court granted the injunctions.
This matter arose from an application for judicial review of a decision of the defendant to issue a notice for the cancellation of the plaintiff’s license. The plaintiff prayed for orders of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus.
The court certified the application as urgent and directed the applicant to serve the respondent. The respondent failed to make an appearance during the hearing, and the court granted leave to stay the notice of cancellation of the licence.
The respondent later filed an application under s 3A of Civil Procedure Act to set aside the stay order. The court found that the replying affidavits filed by the interested parties raised environmental issues and deficiency in the procedure leading to the grant of licence to the applicant.
The court noted its obligation to protect and uphold the authority of all the concerned parties to preserve and manage the environment. The court thus ordered the applicant and the Water Resource Management Authority (interested party) to file joint reports after surveying the riparian reserve area to indicate whether the project had interfered with the reserve. In case of failure to get a joint report, the court ordered the parties to file separate reports from their respective experts within 15 days and prohibited the applicant from developing the area of suit land along the riparian reserve.
This was an application for judicial review wherein the applicants sought orders to quash the respondents’ decision to place an advertisement in the newspapers calling for applications for concessions in state forests, prohibition orders to prevent the respondent from actualizing any matters concerning the advertisement. They also sought an order of mandamus to compel the respondent to comply with constitutional provisions on the protection of forests.
The respondent argued that they had taken the action in accordance with s 37(2) of the Forest Act.
The court determined whether the respondent had complied with the law in making the decision.
The court interpreted s 37(2) and established that before the board takes a decision to place an advertisement for concessions, it must be satisfied that the forests will be efficiently managed through such concession or license and for the board to be satisfied, factors such as public views and opinion, should be taken into account before the decision is made.
The court found that the respondent had not made provision for public participation, yet it was constitutionally bound to do so and thus failed to comply with the law.
Accordingly, the court granted the orders sought by the applicants.
This was an appeal from a decision in an application for judicial review. The appellant was aggrieved by the lower court’s finding that the appellant was not entitled to the orders sought for failure to disclose that an appellate procedure existed under s 129 of the Environmental and Management Co-ordination Act 1999 (EMCA) and not demonstrating why judicial review was preferred to an appeal to the National Environmental Tribunal under the act, upon being dissatisfied with the National Environmental Management Authority’s (NEMA) decisions.
NEMA had ordered the appellant to conduct a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) under s 138 of the EMCA and to cease construction on the suit land.
The court determined whether the trial judge erred in finding that the appellant failed to demonstrate that judicial review was more suitable than an appeal to the tribunal.
The court held that the trial judge arrived at the right conclusion. The court applied the rule that, where an alternative remedy such as a statutory appeal procedure existed, judicial review can only be granted in exceptional circumstances. The court noted that the appellant failed to demonstrate these exceptional circumstances and should have made an appeal to the tribunal instead.
The court also found that public participation is a crucial aspect in environmental matters. The court noted that the fresh EIA as ordered by NEMA would give the appellant an opportunity to ensure public participation which had been ignored in the first EIA.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
This was an appeal against the decision of the respondents refusing to issue an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Licence for the appellants’ housing project. The appellants asked the tribunal to set aside the decision and award costs of the appeal.
The respondents argued that they had received strong objections from members of the local community since the project was in a wildlife migratory corridor and dispersal area.
The tribunal determined whether the respondents were justified in their decision, subject to the objections, without considering if the objectives of the project could be met in absence of the project. The tribunal noted that the objecting stakeholders also found the project to be worthwhile. The tribunal found that the respondents failed by ascertaining that the views of the objecting stakeholders expressed the views of a significant section of the local community. The tribunal also found that the respondents failed to demonstrate that the potential adverse impacts could not be mitigated.
Based on these findings, the tribunal unanimously set aside the respondents’ decision and issued an EIA licence for the appellants’ project but on several conditions
The court considered and application for an injunction to restrain the defendant from directing storm and waste water into the plaintiff’s dam, or into the neighboring dam.
The defendant had acceded to a request by the members of the community to desilt the dam at the primary school, but as the plaintiff submitted, had failed to conduct an environmental impact assessment before undertaking the rehabilitation of the dam. Further, that the storm water from the defendant’s farm had spilled over to the dam in her parcel of land, thereby polluting it and infringing her right to live in a clean environment.
The issue for determination by this court was whether the plaintiff had established a prima facie case to enable the court to grant her the order of injunction sought.
The court held that the defendant undertook the project before seeking the authority of the National Environmental Management Authority and had therefore not consulted with all parties likely to be affected by the dam in co-ordination with the NEMA, before rehabilitating the dam. Therefore, the defendant breached the law by channeling storm water into the neighboring dam, without first complying with the provisions of the Environmental Management Act and that the plaintiff was within her rights to seek an injunction.
The court considered an appeal against the condition attached by the respondent, to its approval of a housing project.
The appellant intended to build a seven storey building, but the respondent restricted it to four. The appellant contended that the limitation placed on the number of storeys and refusal to allow construction for residential floors, below ground level, was unlawful, which had already been approved by the city council.
Upon request to the tribunal, residents of the area were enjoined to the appeal as interested parties, arguing that the appellant’s development did not respect the stipulated environment, and planning regulations, that permitted only a maximum of four storey buildings in Zone 4, where the proposed construction was located.
The tribunal considered whether the limitations placed on the construction were justified. It held that the respondent had the authority to impose conditions that it deemed necessary to prevent and/or reduce negative environmental impacts that might result from an activity, and therefore had the lawful authority to regulate the appellant’s activity.
Under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) and the regulations made under it, the respondent’s authority superseded that of the city council and any action the Council may have taken regarding the proposed development. The tribunal found that the city council’s approval was not lawful. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The court considered an appeal against the first respondent’s approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Project Report, submitted by the second respondent, in support of its application for the development of a housing estate.
The appellant contended that the housing estate was located in an industrial area with high levels of air and noise pollution, among others, and that a full EIA study ought to have been conducted.
During the course of the trial, it became evident that the Appellant objected to this proposed development, due to its concern that the proposed development, would introduce a conflict between its commercial activities within its premises, and the use of neighboring property for residential purposes.
The tribunal observed that the purpose of the EIA licensing process as prescribed by the Environmental Management and Coordination Act of 1999 and the Environmental (Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations, Legal Notice No 101 of 2003 was to assess the likely significant impacts of a proposed project on the environment.
The tribunal found that the alleged serious health risks on account of the high levels of pollution in the area were not substantiated by credible evidence, and as such the first respondent was justified in rating approval. Further, the tribunal held that there was no evidence to show that this project would adversely impact on the environment in ways that could not be mitigated by the measures that had been proposed by the project proponent in the EIA project report.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
This matter determined whether the principles of granting an injunction should be applied differently in environmental litigation.
The applicants sought an injunction to restrain the respondents from mining and excavation activities which were likely to trigger environmental and health problems. The respondents argued that they were not mining but prospecting and had a license to do so.
The court determined that the applicants had the necessary locus standi by virtue of being persons entitled to a clean and healthy environment as per s3(2) of the Environment Management and Coordination Act (EMCA).
The court determined whether the grounds for the grant of an injunction were satisfied by the application. The court noted that breaches of the environmental statute must be looked at without the trappings of the law on injunctions but rather in line with the principles under s3 of the EMCA.
The court established that anybody who intends to mine or conduct prospecting activities is required to submit a project report and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) as per s58 of the EMCA. It was further held that where the provision is not complied with, it is immaterial whether such person had a license. The court found that the respondent failed to comply with the provisions of the act and declared the respondent’s activities illegal.
The injunction was granted since the environmental factors were not taken into account before the project commenced.