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.
Read also JIFA's Environmental Country Reports for SADC
The court considered an appeal against a decision of the High Court dismissing an application for a remedy over a land dispute on the grounds that there were disputes of fact that could not be ascertained, which the appellants should have foreseen.
The first, second and third appellants were members of the fourth appellant, a company of Swazi indigenous people, formed to co-ordinate the ploughing of sugar cane by indigenous Swazis. The first and second respondent were adult Swazis employed by a wildlife business undertaking.
The court considered 1) whether the application should have been dismissed due to a failure by the applicants to join parties who had a substantial interest in the matter, and 2) whether the applicants succeeded in establishing that they were in peaceful and undisturbed possession of the land when they were evicted.
The court found that the appellants did not attempt to join, as respondents, two parties, including a trust controlling the wildlife business undertaking, which had a direct interest in the disputed land. The appellants argued that a trust is not a juristic person, but the court found that legal proceedings can be brought by and against a trust. It was also established that before they moved onto the land the appellants had already been removed from that land and were aware that their right to occupy the land was disputed. Based on the court’s findings and failure to comply with the rules in the filing of heads of argument, the appeal was dismissed[kb1].
This matter originated from an application where the respondents were required to show cause why a final interdict should not be issued against them, to prohibit them from damaging the applicant's wattle forest and timber at the old Nkoyoyo quarry site.
In a series of events, the applicant requested for postponement of the hearing and later filed a notice of withdrawal and prayed for costs. The respondents prayed that the matter be dismissed with costs.
The court considered whether the withdrawal was proper in terms of rule 41 (1)(a) of the High Court Rules that required withdrawal by consent of the parties or leave of the court. The court found the withdrawal to be invalid since the applicant was not compliant with the rules.
The court considered whether the withdrawal application had any merit. The court held that the respondent had proved that the applicant had no right in the land, as per s 94 of the constitution, s 3 of the Safe Guarding of Swazi Areas Act of 1910 and s 2 of the Contract by Swazi Chief Act of 1924.
Consequently, the applicant failed to prove the requirements for an interim interdict and court found him to be in abuse of court process by seeking commercial advantage through the court.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed, and the applicant was ordered to pay punitive damages for abusing court process.
This case interpreted the concept of urgency and interim relief pending the outcome of litigation in issues concerning an exclusive license to harvest and process wild mushrooms, according to the 1973 Wild Mushroom Control Order.
The respondents appeared in court pursuant to a rule nisi (an order to show cause) why they should not be interdicted from stopping the applicant from taking and processing wild mushrooms from Usutu Forest.
The court considered whether the application should be dismissed since the applicants had procured the urgency and interdict by failing to disclose material facts. The court found that there was no immediate urgency since the companies had been in discussion for a long time. It also found that the respondents were not given sufficient time to respond to the application.
The court interpreted the provisions of s. 4(1) of the order and held that the applicant’s license did not authorize intrusion into the respondent’s land without consent. Consequently, the applicants’ submissions were unsound and they had abused court’s processes.
The court held that the effect of an interim interdict was not to determine eventual rights of the parties. It found that the interdict placed an obligation on the respondents that was contrary to its rights and the respondent was entitled to costs thereof.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
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.
The matter concerned the importation of fish, whereby letters of credit were opened at the appellant bank, by the 1st defendant on behalf of the respondent for the importation, which the respondent had sought to cancel.
The court considered the relationships between the parties and found that the opening of the letters of credit created a relationship between the bank, and the respondent, and also imposed on the appellant an obligation to ensure the rights of the respondent were protected. The court found that the appellant failed to do so and resultantly could not escape liability.
The court held that where a duty exists, it must be faithfully observed, since breach thereof would result in damages. The duty owed to the respondent was established with the opening of the letters of credit. This created an obligation on the part of the appellant to keep to the clear terms, under which the letters of credit were to operate. Accordingly, the court found that it was the appellant’s duty to ensure that the terms thereunder were kept.
The court held that where, in a commercial transaction or a contractual relationship, a party signs a disclaimer, then that party by virtue of the disclaimer avoids liability for breach. The court found that the appellant bank, by implication, withdrew their earlier instructions, through their acceptance of the explanations given by the correspondent bank ,and that fact amounted in effect, to not giving any instructions at all.
The court considered an appeal against the judgment of the court below declaring the defendant a tenant, alternatively a licensee of the plaintiff, as well as determining the 2nd defendant’s misgivings concerning the costs awarded against him.
The defendant argued that the land devolved on the chief but was subject to use by both parties’ families. The second defendant was joined as a co-defendant, alleging that the land was founded by his ancestor and that he and his predecessors had been in undisputed possession.
The defendants argued that the judgment was granted erroneously as the trial judge failed to correctly define the boundaries between the parties’ land.
The court found that the trial court had adequately defined the boundaries between the parties’ land and that the first defendant’s ancestor and his people had lived on the land for over 300 years. Thus, although the plaintiffs are the land owners, the defendants are in possession and their possessionary rights should not be disturbed by an injunction.
The court found that in a case that has been on the list for 25 years, costs of ¢1,200,000.00 against 1st Defendant and ¢950,000.00 against 2nd Defendant awarded by the Court in my view is stretching judicial generosity to it limit. I am unable to review the costs mulcted against the Defendants. The appeal by the 2nd Defendant/appellant fails as well as that of the Plaintiff/appellant. In the circumstances the judgment of the lower Court is affirmed.
The court considered an appeal against the decision of the High Court, in which the trial judge accepted the appellant’s case that the conduct of the respondent in ordering the seizure of her fish, and subsequently dealing with it in a manner inconsistent with the rights of the owner, was unlawful and consequently made an award in her favour for damages, but directed that the appellant pays the appropriate custom duties on the fish.
The issues facing the trial court was whether or not the seizure was lawful, whether the quantum of damages awarded in favour of the appellant was correct and whether the trial court was right to order that the respondent-cross-appellant pay custom duties.
The court held that the appellant suffered damages equivalent not to the cost price but fair market value of the fish. Therefore, it was just for the said amount to attract interest at the prevailing exchange rate from the date of the wrong. Since the fish were wrongfully dealt with by the respondent, there was no merit in the cross appeal.
Finally, the court dismissed the appeal of the appellant as well as the cross appeal of the respondent and affirmed the decision of the court below, however, ordered a variation, in relation to the award of damages and the payment of interest on the custom duties by the respondent.
The court considered an appeal against an injunction to restrain the appellants from going onto the disputed land to demarcate, dig, construct etc. any tree on the land until the action had been finally determined. The court considered, 1) the weight of evidence and 2) the capacity of the respondent.
The respondent obtained a customary grant of land 22 years before the action. Later, he obtained a formal lease and was reallocated additional acres of land, which was used to cultivate cash and food crops. Due to development in the area, the respondent’s land was whittled away. The respondent alleged that the appellants trespassed on his land and undertook various activities such as alienation of portions of his land, in the premise.
On the ground of capacity, it was found that once a party’s capacity had been challenged, it should be determined as a preliminary point and the suit can only be heard after this is determined. The court held that the appellants did not raise capacity as a preliminary issue and as such, the manner in which it was raised was a ploy to confuse the trial judge.
On ground of the weight of evidence, the court found that if the injunction had not been granted, the respondents land would have been pillaged and its nature entirely changed. Thus, an injunction was necessary to ensure that irreparable damage was not caused.
The court found that the trial judge exercised his discretion properly and thus the appeal was dismissed and remitted to the trial court for continuation.
The matter dealt with an appeal in which the respondent had commenced proceedings in the Local Court against the appellant and his mother for trespassing in a forest. The appellant denied the trespass and claimed that the forest had belonged to his father and that he was the heir. The court delivered a very confusing judgement which was hard to comprehend and so the respondent sought an appeal that would see the Magistrate’s Court revisit the matter.
The magistrate reviewed and set aside the matter issuing a new judgement. The principal question was if the magistrate had the power to review the matter from the local court.
Section 26 of the Central and Local Courts Proclamation granted magistrates the power to review matters but that such a magistrate must not constitute himself a court of appeal and arbitrarily interfere with the working of the lower court. He was empowered to ensure that there were no irregularities on the face of the proceedings or prejudice or bias in a decision given by the President of a Local or Central Court only.
The court in this matter therefore, found that the magistrate, by setting aside the decision of the local court and delivering an alternative judgment was exercising an appellate function which was beyond its authority. The court found that it could not consider issues of law in the present matter and referred the matter back to the local court for review as should have been done by the magistrate.
The matter concerned an application on whether the Federal Court had jurisdiction to hear a claim for payment against a chartered ship in a contract for the carriage of fish by sea from Argentina to Nigeria. The facts were that the respondent brought an action in the Federal High Court due to a delay by the appellant to take delivery within the time agreed by the parties in the Bill of Lading. The contract however, stated that any dispute arising would be heard in the Courts of Argentina and the applicant challenged the court’s jurisdiction on this basis. The application was dismissed by the Federal Court and the decision upheld on appeal by the Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court considered whether the lower court had erred in upholding the decision of the Federal Court. It observed that, in the absence of evidence from the respondent on the appellant’s application, there was nothing to consider in favour of the respondent to support their actions contrary to the agreement between the parties, in holding the Federal Court as the proper venue for the hearing and determination of its case against the appellant. It held that in the absence of strong cause shown by the respondent for the trial court not to grant the appellant’s application for stay, the law required that the court exercise its discretion in favour of the appellant by granting the application. Accordingly, the appeal was upheld, and the judgment of the lower court was therefore set aside.
This was an appeal in the Court of Appeal against a judgment of the High Court which had dismissed an appeal to it against a judgment of the Judicial Commissioner’s Court, the effect of which was to uphold a decision of a local court. The issue concerned the removal of wood from a plantation by the appellant, which the respondent contended belonged to the community of which he was a headman. The appellant’s reasoning that the plantation was situated in his grandfather’s field was rejected by the court which ordered the appellant to desist from using the plantation and never to use it. The appellant was not satisfied with the ruling, so he appealed unsuccessfully, first to the Central Court, then to the Judicial Commissioner’s Court and finally to the High Court.
The issue for the court’s consideration was whether the local court had the jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The court observed that the matter concerned provisions of the Chieftainship Act 22 of 1968 pursuant to which the judge held that the finding by the Office of the Chief did not preclude the appellant from seeking recourse in the Local Court. The court upheld the High Court judge’s view that the dispute between the parties was not a dispute involving claims to; title, exemption from title, or overriding title. Therefore, the submission that the dispute must be dealt with in the Land Court or the District Land Court was not upheld. The appeal was dismissed with costs.
This was an action for damages for assault and battery that led to the removal of one of the plaintiff’s eye; following a beating by the defendant’s guards when the plaintiff was caught stealing on the defendant’s property. The plaintiff also prayed for costs of the action.
It was common cause that the plaintiff was cutting down trees for firewood without permission at the defendant’s estate; and that the plaintiff ran away from the defendant’s agents. The plaintiff averred that one of the defendant’s agents appeared in front of him and threw his baton stick at him, hitting and injuring his eye. The defendant denied the plaintiff’s version of facts and averred that the plaintiff stumbled and fell onto his shovel, thereby injuring himself.
The court, therefore, had to determine whether the plaintiff was entitled to the damages sought.
The court held that in a civil case like this one, the burden was on the plaintiff to prove his case on balance of probabilities. The plaintiff argued that he satisfied this requirement, as the defendant’s witnesses contradicted themselves. The court, however, noted that all of the defendant’s witnesses concurred that they were not carrying baton sticks on the material day and that the plaintiff did not challenge this.
Consequently, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish that the injuries he sustained were caused by the defendant’s agents. The plaintiff’s action, therefore, failed.
This was an action for damages for nuisance and trespass against the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that he was the owner of a property on which the defendant erected a 55m antenna in a brick enclosure along with an unsilenced diesel generator which produced noise. He further claimed that the defendant erected a girder with red flashing lights and positioned two 24-hour security guards at the enclosure. The defendant contended that the property was part of a forest reserve for which it had obtained a licence from the Department of Forestry.
The court considered whether or not the defendant was liable in trespass and nuisance and whether or not the plaintiff was entitled to the damages claimed.
The court found that the plaintiff held a 99-year lease over his property and that the licence granted to the defendant by the Department of Forestry did not specify the exact site for the location of the antenna. It was therefore held that the licence did not justify the trespass. The court concluded that the defendant was liable for trespass on the plaintiff’s land.
In determining the issue on nuisance, the court noted that the plaintiff did not plead the particulars of the alleged nuisance by the defendant and that he did not adduce evidence to prove the allegation of the nuisance. As such, the claim for nuisance was dismissed.
Accordingly, the court awarded the plaintiff damages for trespass.
The court considered an appeal against the conviction and sentence of the appellant, for the killing of an animal, possession of government trophy and failure to report being in possession of government trophy.
The appellant sought leniency and a lighter sentence on the ground that he had reformed. The respondent opposed the appeal and urged the court to uphold, both the conviction and sentence, and maintained that the evidence by the prosecution’s witnesses established the case against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether at the trial, there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction and sentence of the appellant.
The court found that although the evidence was circumstantial, there was no plausible explanation as to how the appellant came to be in possession of the tusks stolen from the dead elephant. Further that between the discovery of the carcass and arrest of the appellant, there were no intervening factors to weaken the inference of guilt.
The court observed that the appellant was sentenced under the earlier Wildlife Conservation Act, Chapter 376 which had since been repealed. The sentence was more lenient than those introduced by the amended act, thus the sentence was neither excessive, nor wrong. Accordingly, the court held that the appellant had been properly convicted and dismissed the appeal on both sentence and conviction.
The court considered a petition to have a decision handed down by the Ministry of Devolution and Planning quashed and declared unconstitutional.
The petitioners were Embobut Forest dwellers which shared a common border with five other clans. The petitioners alleged that they were genuine evictees and internally displaced persons who were aggrieved, ignored and not compensated when the respondents harmonized their registers.
The petitioners argued that their constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment had been infringed and that they had not been appropriately compensated. They alleged that they ought to have been compensated like any other squatters and that they had been discriminated against.
The court found that the arguments put forward by the petitioners were non-justiciable. Justiciability refers to the types of matters the court can adjudicate on. In this instance, the court found that the harmonization of the register of the petitioners was a political question, and not a legal one.
The court found that the purpose of compensating those who were in illegal occupation of the forest was to give effect to their right to property. However, the court found that the petitioners did not demonstrate that they were part of those who illegally occupied the land, and thus could not be compensated. Further, the court found that the petitioners did not demonstrate that any of the constitutional provisions had been violated, thus their petition was without substance.
The court considered an application for judicial review on the ground that the decision of a magistrate to grant an injunction was ultra vires (i.e beyond the powers). The applicant contended that the magistrate lacked jurisdiction to make such an order and as such the order was a nullity. The respondent argued that the application was misconceived; that it had jurisdiction and that the applicant had failed to lodge an appeal which meant that the remedy of judicial review was not available to it.
The court considered whether the respondent had the jurisdiction to consider the matters before it. The court also considered whether the applicant exhausted other equally convenient, beneficial and effective alternative remedies which were available under the law.
The court found that although the application was brought in terms of the Forests Act, such dispute ought to have been brought before the National Environment Tribunal.
The court found that the learned magistrate acted without jurisdiction and in excess of statutory authority, contrary to Section 63(2) of the Forests Act to receive, entertain, hear and otherwise deal with the said case as the proper forum to hear and determine the interested party’s claim, would have been the National Environment Tribunal. On this basis, the decision issued was ultra vires and thus a nullity ab initio. Accordingly, the court set aside the decision of the magistrate.
This application sought a review of regulations requiring a 24-month period for lions to be fending for themselves in an extensive wildlife system before the lion would be hunted (self-sustaining provisions).
The court accepted a request by both parties to determine the validity of the regulations as if they were applicable to lions regardless of the omission of lions in the 2008 amendment.
It was also found that the applicantÕs argument that the predator breederÕs industry should be represented on the scientific authority was not a ground for review.
The court considered whether the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act of 2000 (PAJA) was applicable to the making of regulations and held that regulations are administrative actions according to PAJA.
Secondly, the court considered whether sufficient opportunity was provided for the applicant to make representations to the panel. The court considered s3(5) and s4(1)(d) of PAJA that allows a procedure that is fair but different from PAJA provisions. The court accepted that in some instances procedural fairness requires provision of a further opportunity to make representations. The court found that the respondent acted fairly and had no way of knowing the applicantÕs attitude on the self-sustaining provision since they considered the applicantÕs letter of 2006 and the applicantÕs opposing letter of 2007 was received after announcement of the regulations.
Thirdly, the court considered whether there was a rational basis for the self-sustaining provisions. The court appreciated the fact that the hunting of lions bred in captivity has damaged the reputation of the country and the principle of fair chase. It was held that the provisions were rational since they would prevent the hunting of lions that are completely dependent on humans. Consequently, the court also held that the provisions were reasonable.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
The case concerned a dispute between the applicant, a non-profit company involved in the promotion of a wildlife conservancy and the first respondent, a mining business within the area of jurisdiction of the second respondent. The applicant invoked its entitlement in public interest to apply for an interdict restraining the first respondent from making any development on any portion of the concerned properties as defined in s 1 and s 38(3), of the KwaZulu-Natal Planning and Development Act No. 6 of 2008 (KZNPD).
The applicant argued that the first respondent was required to apply for its proposed development but the applicant contended that it had not yet obtained such authorisation. The first respondent contended that it had been granted approval for mining authorisations in March 1998, in terms of the then applicable Minerals Act No. 50 of 199. The first respondent argued that mining authorisations approved and granted under the Minerals Act entailed that no further authorisations were required where a mining right subsisted.
The court pointed out that mining authorisations were subject only to the provisions of the Minerals Act and there was no provision similar to that in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 28 of 2002. The court found that the concerned properties were not inside a municipal area and were never the subject of any zoning controls when mining authorisation was granted. On the basis of this alone, no further authorisations were required under any other legislation. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
This petition arose primarily out of a concern over the incidences of poaching of wildlife. The petitioners sought a clarification of whether the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) fell under the national security framework. The court had to decide whether uniformed officers of the KWS were officers of the National Police Service (NPS) and on the right of the petitioners to information, among others.
In dismissing the petition, the court held that the NPS and KWS were established under different legal regimes to discharge different functions and they operated under different chain of command structures. The court further noted that its mandate was limited to fill the legislative gaps and it could not supplant the intention of the legislative role. It observed that the petitioners in essence sought to change the law relating to the inclusion of KWS officers under the NPS. The court observed that the relief sought by the petitioners was better directed to the right forum namely, the legislature which held the legislative mandate. The court went on to hold that the applicant had to show that the information being sought had been denied in order te establish a violation of the petitioners’ access to information. It ound that as no request for such information had been made to the respondents, the enforcement of the right could not have crystallized.
Accordingly, the petition was dismissed with costs.
This was a judicial review on the administrative decision of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (“DAFF”) to refuse a permit for the removal of 10 protected trees (white Milkwood trees) to build a new residence.
The court considered whether it was proper for the applicant to seek an order to compel the DAFF to make a decision it had not taken during a review. The court applied the rule that requires the court to exercise its judicial discretion to set aside an administrative decision only when considering the consequences of a decision that was already taken.
The court also considered whether the decision was made by an authorised person. The court applied the provisions of s15 of the Natural Forest Act which prohibits the disturbance (removal) of protected trees without a license or exemption from the minister. It also considered s7 of the that allowed the minister to delegate exercise of his powers. The court found that the decision was made by a forester who was not authorised to make the decision. The court found that alone to be decisive of the matter and set aside the decision by the DAFF.
The court also made an order as to costs to be paid on a joint and several bases by the respondents.
This was a judicial review against a decision by the Minister of Environmental affairs approving a flawed strategic plan to show commitment for the establishment of a seabird and marine mammal rehabilitation centre. The applicant sought a declaratory order that the first and second respondents failed to adhere to the Revised Record of Decision (ROD).
The origin of the case was an administrative appeal by South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Trust (Samrec) faulting a specific condition in the ROD for not placing any obligation on stakeholders whose operations were likely to affect the marine life of Algoa Bay. Samrec proposed amendments that were rejected.
The ROD was amended to require the stakeholders to submit a strategic plan indicating their commitment to facilitating the establishment of the rehabilitation centre. Samrec faulted this amendment, arguing that the obligation created was not sufficient.
The minister maintained that the first and second respondents were compliant and her department bore the responsibility for environmental protection and oil spillage damage, but considered it necessary to have her views placed before court.
The court applied the rule that it should be slow to substitute or vary an administrative decision since an administrative body is better equipped and has the expertise to make the right decisions than the court, unless court has to step in to ensure fairness. The court held that this was not such a case.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed and each party was ordered to bear its own costs.
The matter was an appeal from a conviction on the charge of being found in possession of wildlife trophies in contravention of s95 and 92 of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act of 2013 (“Act”).
The appellant argued that the trial court overlooked the inconsistencies and contradictions in evidence and applied the doctrine constructive possession of the wildlife trophies erroneously.
The court established that evidence must be led to prove the fact of possession and the contradiction in witnesses’ testimonies put the question of possession in doubt. Court also found that the doctrine of recent possession was erroneously applied.
The court considered s92 and established that it does not create an offence in so far as offences in respect of endangered species or their trophies are concerned but only a punishment and as such the suspect could not be tried under it. Further, that the proper provision that created an offence in respect to wildlife trophies and trophies generally was s95 and that suspects should be charged under the same until the Act is amended.
The conviction was quashed and the appeal was allowed on account of failure of the prosecution to prove the case to the required standard.
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.