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 High Court to dismiss an application by the appellant for a stay of execution of the judgment given by the trial court.
The trial judge gave judgment in favour of the respondent having found that the appellant was unable to prove ownership of the land. The trial judge declared that the appellants were customary tenants of the respondent and lacked authority to put tenants on the respondent’s property; the judge also ordered for payment of damages and issued an injunction. Thereafter, the appellant filed an appeal against this judgment and a motion in the High Court seeking a stay of execution of the judgment pending the time the determination of the appeal. This appeal and the appeal to the Court of appeal on the same issue was dismissed.
The court noted that a stay of execution was a discretionary order that should be exercised judicially, by taking into account the competing rights of the parties to justice. The court held that a stay application required proof of exceptional circumstances. It observed that a stay would only be granted if its refusal would deprive the appellant of the means of prosecuting the appeal. In dismissing the appeal, the court relied on the finding of the trial court that the land did not belong to the appellants and the fact that the appellant failed to prove exceptional circumstances. Accordingly, the appeal was dimissed.
This was an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal that declared that the respondents were the rightful owners of the land in dispute, issued damages for trespass by the appellant and an injunction preventing the appellant from entering the land and harvesting therefrom.
The facts revealed that the appellant's forefather granted the respondent's forefather a portion of land for farming purposes and reserved the right to reap the fruits of trees in the farm. In exchange, the respondent’s forefather was also required to pay Ishakole( land rent) as and when due.
The court determined the rights of the appellant as a customary tenant. The court noted that the appellant’s rights were subject to the respondent’s (landlord) right to reversion in case of any breach of the grant. However, it noted that a landlord is still required to approach the court to forfeit the interest of the tenant.
The court also determined the rights of the parties in a customary tenancy after the Land Use Act 1978 came into operation. The court found that act took away the freehold title vested in individuals or communities but not the customary right of use and control of the land. It was thus held that a customary tenant remained a tenant subject to the conditions attached to the customary tenancy. Further, the court held that the appellant was entitled to harvest fruits and trees and could not be liable for trespassing.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.
This was a dispute over land ownership and related claims to reversionary interest compensation. Both parties sought orders declaring that they were allodial owners of the land in dispute according to tradition and customs, and that they were entitled to receive the reversionary interest compensation.
The court determined whether the allodial title to the land in dispute vested in individual families or in the appellant as the Tindana for and on behalf of the whole community.
The court held that the best way of resolving conflicts arising from traditional evidence concerning ownership of land is to test it against recent acts to see which traditional version is supported. The court found that it is widely accepted, among legal writers, scholars and practitioners, that the Tindana is the landlord or landowner. Additionally, the report of the committee to investigate a land dispute between the Tindonsobligo and the Kalbeo people explicitly stated that the Tindana was the allodial owner of land, while the people were usufucts (settler/farmers).
The court noted that the defendants Tindana status was not in dispute, and concluded that the appellant was the the allodial owner of Kalbeo land and held it in in trust for community.
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.
This was an appeal against a judgment of the High Court which ordered the appellants to comply with the terms of a settlement agreement entered into by the parties on 10 November 2006 and later became an order of court. The first appellant was an elected body established in terms of the Regional Councils Act 22 of 1992. The first respondent was a voluntary association representing 104 members out of 110 persons who were lessees of sites in a holiday resort and fishing village of Wlotzkasbaken under the jurisdiction of the first appellant.
The first appellant advertised plots for lease without distinguishing between those already leased to the respondents and other vacant sites, which aggrieved the respondents and was interpreted as a breach of their right of pre-emption. The issues for determination were: the meaning of clause 2 of the 2006 agreement in the context of previous agreements and whether the advertisement was signaling an intention to no longer be bound by the 2006 agreement.
The court deduced that the agreements showed that in each instance the parties agreed to certain rights which would ensure that those existing leaseholders would be able, if so advised, to convert their lease holding into property rights. In their agreement with the appellants, the respondents acquired the right to have all the plots sold once the township was proclaimed. Therefore, the intention to lease those plots was a breach of the right of the respondents. Accordingly, the appellants’ appeal was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an urgent application for spoliation orders (common law remedy) against the first to eleventh respondents or alternatively, an eviction order against them.
The thirteenth respondent purchased three farms which were adjacent to land which was incorporated in a communal area falling under the jurisdiction of the first applicant, a traditional authority. These farms were intended to be incorporated into the communal land falling under the applicant’s jurisdiction. The Government of Namibia initiated the process of incorporating these farms into the communal area under the first applicant through a notice published in the Government Gazette pursuant to the provisions of the Communal Land Reform Act 5 of 2002.
The issue facing the court was whether the first to eleventh respondents had the prerogative to occupy the farms with their cattle grazing on them, without authority to do so. The respondents argued that the applicant lacked locus standi (capacity) to bring the application since the land had not yet been incorporated into the communal area by way of notice in the Government Gazette, as required by the act, thus the applicant did not have jurisdiction over the land.
The application for spoliation was refused because the applicant could not show deprivation of possession by reason of the respondents’ occupation which predates its possession and control. Thus, the court found that the respondents could not establish any right to be on the farms.
The eviction order was granted with costs.
The matter focused on the lawfulness of the removal of fencing surrounding land for agricultural purposes in a communal area.
The respondent, Ohangwena Communal Board, established under s 2 of the Communal Land Reform Act 5 of 2002 removed fencing erected by the applicant, around a tract of agricultural land in a communal area, which the applicant alleged had been duly allocated to him in 1986.
The applicant approached the High Court on an urgent basis for an interdict to restrain the board from removing the fencing surrounding the grazing farm and from disposing of the fencing material which had already been removed.
The applicant maintained that in terms of s 18(b) read with s 28(2)(b) and 28(3) of the act, he is entitled to retain the fences which he had erected on and around the farm. The court found that the applicant had erected the perimeter fence prior to the coming into force of the Act and his intention to apply for authorisation for the retention of the perimeter fence, meant that the removal of the fence by the respondent was unlawful and in conflict with the act.
Given the entitlement to retain a fence if the statutory requisites in s 28(80) are met, it would be unlawful for boards to remove such fencing where applicants intend to make such application prior to the expiration of the period set by the Minister pursuant to s 18.
The interdictory relief was granted.
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to reverse the issuance of a mining licence the second appellant without hearing the respondents. The first appellant was the regional director responsible for providing mineral licenses and the second appellant was the mining company that had obtained a mining licence. The respondents wished to oppose the grant of the mining licence but a notice to the public which would have afforded them the opportunity to raise objections was not issue. The appellants contended that article 9 of the Minerals Act 50 of 1991 did not provide such a duty. The respondents contended that the right to be heard was a natural right and therefore a silent section could not be deemed to oust it.
The Supreme Court considered whether interested parties, wishing to oppose an application by the holder of mineral rights for a mining licence in terms of sec 9 of the act, were entitled to raise environmental objections and be heard by the first appellant, The court held that the right to be heard was such a critical right that it could not be easily ignored and the critical nature of environmental issues at the global level demanded that the first appellant involve the public on environmental assessment measures taken. The court stated further that there was an obligation on the first appellant to provide allow for a hearing on any objections before a license could be issued. Accordingly, the appellants’ case was dismissed.
The petitioners disputed eviction from the railway reserve. The respondents filed a cross petition arguing that the petitioners were non project affected persons (PAPs) who were illegally squatting in the reserved area.
Firstly, the court determined whether the implementation of the Relocation Action Plan was in compliance with international legal provisions. The court noted that there was no legal framework in Kenya governing adequate housing and forced evictions. The court, therefore applied the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines as a source of international law in the matter, in accordance to art 2 (5) and (6) of the Constitution of Kenya. The court held that the Relocation Action Plan was carried out within the required legal framework.
Secondly, the court determined whether the implementation of the Relocation Action Plan caused a violation of the petitioner’s constitutional rights. The court noted that art 21 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, imposed a fundamental duty of the state and every state organ to observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights. The court found that the affected residents had knowledge of the intended relocation for a period of 9 years, which amounted to adequate notice of the eviction and relocation.
Accordingly, the petition was dismissed. The cross petition succeeded and the court ordered the petitioners whose names did not appear in the list of the PAPs to move out of the railway reserve and allow the second respondent to proceed with the resettlement plan.
The plaintiff’s claim was for judgment against the defendants for rental money received from the 3rd to 8th defendant from leasing part of plaintiff's land. The plaintiff also claimed compensation for loss of land as per art. 16(2) of the Namibian Constitution.
The applicant argued that she acquired a customary land right in respect of riparian land that was designated as communal land by a representative of the Mafwe Traditional Authority, after her father’s death in 2001.
The land became state land after it was declared a township in 1995 and was thus transferred to the Katima Mulilo Town Council.
The defendants argued that the local authority owned the land and the plaintiff had no right thereof. The court held that ownership of the land vested in the local authority as per the Local Authorities Act of 1992. The court applied s. 15(2) of the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002 as read with Section 3 of the Local Authorities Act of 1992 and held that the land ceased to be customary land when the town council became the owner in 1995.
The court noted as an obiter (by the way), that the claim for compensation should have been made against the state for taking possession of the community land not the Local Authority.
Accordingly, the claim was 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 a decision of the High Court to dismiss the appellant’s claim for loss of occupation of communal land. Her second claim was that the land was unlawfully expropriated without compensation by the respondents.
The court determined whether or not the appellant had acquired a valid customary law tenure right in the land in dispute and whether this right was unlawfully interfered with. Further, whether any liability attached to the council arising from its interference with that right.
The first respondent (“the council”), contended that the land belonged to it and had ceased to be communal land thus extinguishing communal land tenure. The court found that the appellant acquired and held a customary land tenure right and the state’s succession to the communal land did not extinguish communal land tenure but the state simply held the land in trust for the affected communities.
The court established that the Constitution guaranteed the enforcement of customary land rights. The court therefore, concluded that the appellant had an exclusive right to the use and occupation of the land in dispute; and that the right attached to the land even after its proclamation as town land.
Accordingly, they court upheld the appeal with costs in favour of the appellant. The matter was remitted to the High Court for the adjudication of the appellant’s claim of unjust enrichment and compensation.
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.
The matter concerned an application to the High Court for review of the decision of the first respondent to dismiss an appeal lodged by the applicant against environmental authorisations granted by the second respondent to the fourth and fifth respondent. The applicant argued that its right to procedural fairness was violated because a number of statutory provisions were not strictly followed. It was the applicant’s contention, however, that the words ‘must’ and ‘shall’ indicate the imperative, mandatory and preemptive intention of these provisions.
The court considered whether the act required exact compliance in every instance and whether the public participation process was flawed in this case. The court cited s47(a) of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and held that requirements classified as mandatory need not, in fact, be strictly complied with, but that substantial or adequate compliance may be sufficient. In the present case, the court found that the failure to strictly comply with the statutory requirements did not materially prejudice the rights of the applicant.
The court also found no support for the applicant’s allegations that the public participation process was flawed or inhibited and that the environment would be endangered in any way. Rather, the court agreed with the respondents that the applicant seemed to attempt to capitalize on trivial deficiencies to discredit the entire process.
The court, therefore, dismissed the applicant’s application with costs.
The court considered an appeal against a decision in the Environment and Land court, declaring that the respondent had trespassed on the applicant’s premises and that the respondent be ordered to vacate the area and demolish and structures it had erected.
The respondent alleged that it had settled in the area 45 years prior and had inherited the land from his father.
The appellant alleged it had purchased the property in 1994 but had not occupied or used the land. The lower court held that by the time the action was brought in 2008 there was evidence that the respondent had been in occupation for a period of time that would entitle him to raise the defense of limitation, and after the expiration of over 12 years, the appellant was precluded from bringing an action to recover the premises.
The question was whether the respondent had been in possession of the premises for over 12 years as at the time the suit to evict him was instituted in 2008, and whether his possession was averse to that of the appellant?
The court held that the relevant period would be between 1994, the date of registration of the appellant as the proprietor, and 2008, when the suit was filed. It held that the period translated to 14 years which meant the respondent could legitimately base his claim and dealt with the premises as if it was exclusively his. Thus dispossessing the appellant of its right to the land.
The court considered whether an interim interdict could be granted to stop short-term remedial measures which were put in place to treat acid mine drainage (AMD).
To determine whether to grant the interim interdict, the date on which the ECL would be reached was critical. The court found that pursuant to the date being determined, the court was to apply the precautionary principle, which requires authorities to insist on adequate measures to safeguard against the contamination of underground water.
The court found that the ECL could not be determined and based on the short-term project, the greater the danger and consequences of untreated AMD is averted.
The appellant sought leave to appeal the respondent’s refusal to allow access to information concerning the use of a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) for generating electricity.
The court determined the limitations of the right to information in s 32 of the constitution and the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000; and whether the respondent was right in relying on the limitations to deny the applicants access to the information.
The court held that the right to information is not absolute since it is limited by the right to privacy as per s 36 of the constitution. The court determined whether the information required by the appellant fell within the exceptions in the act.
The court also noted that this was a technical matter that required expert evidence since experts are better qualified to draw inferences in such matters than the judicial officer. The court observed that only the respondent brought expert evidence.
The court applied s 42(3)(a) of the Information Act that entitles the respondent to refuse a request for access to a record that contains trade secrets. It found that the respondent had proved its case and that the research requested by the appellant was protected from disclosure.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.
The matter dealt with an application for access to information relating to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). The court considered the applicability of the provisions of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA).
The court applied the test in our law that no statute is to be construed as having retrospective operation unless the legislature clearly intended it to have that effect. In the circumstances, if one were to apply PAIA’s provisions retrospectively they would interfere with the applicant’s then existing rights. The court found that the disclosure of information, or the granting of access to information should be necessary for the proper application of the provisions of the GMO act.
The court considered the applicant’s failure to exhaust internal remedies as required by s19 of the GMO act. The court found that the act does not expressly state that recourse to the courts is to be deferred until the internal appeal procedure provided for in s19 thereof is exhausted. The court found that it is illogical to insist that the applicant should have exhausted the internal appeal remedy first. The court found that this was not necessarily destructive of the relief sought by the applicant.
On the issue of whether the applicant failed to articulate the information sought, the court considered how requesters for information would not always have knowledge of the precise description of the record in which the information sought, is contained. The court found that the applicant has a clear right to some of the information to which access was requested and that the respondent was entitled to refuse access to certain records, or parts thereof, in terms of the grounds for refusal.
This was an application for review of the respondent’s decision to authorise the construction of a lodge in a protected area. The lodge was built prior to obtaining the necessary environmental authorisation but this was obtained ex post facto. The applicant had at the time of filing this application alos filed an application for an interdict to stop the construction of the lodge, which application was dismissed.
The main legal issue to be resolved was whether under the National Environmental Management Act No 107 of 1998 (NEMA) a permit to build a house in the Protected Environment (MPE) could be issued ex post facto as was given to the third respondent by the first and second respondents.
The court held that section 24 G of NEMA provided for the rectification of the unlawful commencement of the activity by applying to the Minister or MEC for an ex post facto environmental authorisation. In conclusion, the court held that since the application was done and approved ex post facto the respondents had acted within the confines of the law and therefore the application lacked merit. The court observed further that the was aware, or ought to have been aware that when it was unsuccessful in the urgent application to have the development of the Lodge suspended, the consequences were that the respondent would continue with the construction and finalisation of its building project and the review would be rendered academic. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The matter dealt with an application for leave to appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the first respondent to acquire a prospecting licence in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act over the applicant’s land.
Appeals to the High Court, and later to the Supreme Court were dismissed on the ground that the community had failed to file for review timeously in terms of the provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. The merits of the case were not heard in both matters.
In determining the application, the Constitutional Court considered the following: whether there were internal remedies; whether there was proper consultation and whether consideration was given to the environmental requirements.
It found that an internal appeal was available to the applicants, but the respondents’ failure to deal with the appeal frustrated the process, although the review application had been brought in time. Further, the court held that the granting of prospecting rights was an invasion of a property owner’s rights and that the purpose of consultation with landowners, was to provide them with the information necessary to make an informed decision on how to respond to the application.
The court concluded that the decision-maker had not given the community a hearing or complied with the fairness requirements of the Act, and that the environmental requirements in terms of the Act had not been satisfied. Accordingly, leave to appeal was granted and the prospecting rights on the community’s land were set aside.
This was an application for an injunction order by the plaintiffs to restrain the defendants from harvesting trees without consulting and involving the community. The court had to decide on the following: whether a community that was a beneficiary of a forest had capacity to commence proceedings against the illegal and irregular harvesting of timber and fuel wood materials from the forest; whether public participation was mandatory in the management of forests; and whether the Director of Kenya Forest Service (KFS), the first defendant, could be sued in their capacity as a director.
The court held that there were no provisions in law which barred any suit against the first defendant in that capacity. The court observed that the community had an interest in the preservation and sustainable use of the forest. As such, public participation was an important component of environmental management as enshrined in the constitution. However, the court pointed out that there was no public participation that was demonstrated by the respondents. On the lack of a management plan by the KFS, the court held that it was difficult to know when a tree was planted or harvested, thus creating difficulty to prove which trees were to be cut. The court held that the balance of convenience weighed in favour of the applicants because environmental interests far-outweighed private interests.
Accordingly, the court ordered the respondents to stop harvesting trees, pending the hearing of the suit.
The court considered an application for mandamus to compel the government, the first respondent, to disclose agreements relating to the purchase of power, among others. The first respondent and Ethiopia entered into negotiations to develop a power plant. The petitioners argued that by agreeing to purchase electricity from Ethiopia, the respondents were acting in a manner that would deprive members of the affected communities of their livelihood, lifestyle and cultural heritage.
The court considered the following: whether it had jurisdiction to intervene and address the issues; whether the rights of the petitioners had been infringed; and what the respondents’ obligations were. The court held that the subject matter of the petition was an agreement between two sovereign states and the violations of rights were transboundary, thus giving the court jurisdiction to hear the matter.
It stated that the right to life, dignity, economic and social rights were indivisible and would have an adverse impact on the petitioners’ livelihood should the power plant be developed. However, without concrete evidence, the court could not find that their rights were violated. In terms of the access to environmental information, the court held that the State was obliged to encourage public participation, which was only possible if the public had all the information. The court found that the respondents ought to have conducted an environmental impact assessment to ensure that the project would not harm the public. Thus, their right to information was infringed. Accordingly, the court granted the order of a mandamus.
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.