The Environmental Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from 10 African countries on topics relating to environmental law, both substantive and procedural. The collection focuses on cases where an environmental interest interacts with governmental or private interests.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-area expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
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This was an appeal against the decision of the trial court to award damages to the respondent in absence of expert evidence.
The appeal originated from an action for damages by the respondent. The respondent contended that the appellant’s seismic operations involving setting off explosive charges underground, caused cracks on the cement walls and concrete floors of his building.
The court determined whether the trial court erred in its holding. The court noted that the plaintiff led no expert evidence, while an expert for the defence testified that the explosive charges could not have damaged the respondent’s building. It was further noted that both parties disagreed on the extent of the damage on the respondent’s building.
The court held that expert evidence was necessary to connect the damage with seismic operations. The court also held that the trial court erred in its holding since the plaintiff failed to discharge the onus on him to establish such connection.
The court noted that there was a serious conflict in the description of the building; and relied on the holding in Seismograph Service (Nigeria) Limited v Esiso Akporuovo (1974) 6 SC to hold that a proper evaluation of the evidence required a judicial inspection of the building.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.
The matter concerned an allegation that the accused’s filling stations presented an environmental risk. Having been granted leave, the prosecutor, an environmental advocacy organisation instituted a private prosecution in the Gauteng Division of the High Court against the accused, a fuel supplies company.
The prosecutor claimed that it had complied with all the legislative requirements set out in s33 of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 to enable it to initiate such a prosecution. Counts 1 to 21 of the indictment alleged that the accused had contravened ss 21(1), 22(1) and 29(4) of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1986 (“ECA”) as read together with other supporting environmental legislation. The said s 22(2) provided that authorisation of activities like construction of a service station would only be issued after consideration of reports concerning their impact on the environment. The accused formally pleaded to the charges divided into two sections. The first was a plea under s 106(1)(h) denying the prosecutor’s entitlement to prosecute and the other was a plea of not guilty under s 106(1)(b).
The court held that the claim under s 106(1)(h) on defence of want of title to prosecute failed. The court concluded that the prosecutor's case was straightforward and that the accused breached a duty relating to the protection of the environment. It held that in terms of s22(1) of the ECA the undertaking of certain identified activities was prohibited without written authorisation. The accused was convicted on 17 counts and acquitted on four.
The plaintiff’s claim against the defendant in this case was that the defendant’s negligent and faulty roofing resulted in a flood that consequently damaged the plaintiff’s restaurant. The parties’ properties were located on a steep hill and shared a boundary. It was alleged that, on account of the defendant’s failure maintain a proper gutter, water was discharged from its roof onto the plaintiff’s property resulting in a flood. The defendant’s only defense was that there was no proof that the water that flowed towards the plaintiff’s restaurant came from the defendant’s restaurant.
The court held that since the onus of proof was on a balance of probability, the plaintiff’s case was clear. The evidence showed that a significant amount of water was discharged from the defendant’s roof due to its ill-fitted gutter towards the plaintiff’s house, which would have otherwise been channeled into a catch pit. The court reasoned that the presumption that the defendant’s poorly fixed gutter led to the flood was proved when soon after the defendant repaired its gutters the floods did not reoccur despite heavy rainfalls in following seasons. The court thus concluded that the defendant’s poorly fitted roofing contributed to the floods. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s claim succeeded.