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 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.
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.
The court considered an application declaring that the applicants right to life had been contravened by forcible eviction, as well as their right to protection of the law.
The applicants averred that they had resided and carried on farming on the land from which they were evicted for 61 years. After the land had been degazetted for settlement by Gazette Notices, the applicants claimed that their subsequent eviction was an infringement of their constitutional rights.
The Applicants claimed to reside and possess the land in dispute but did not lay any credible foundation to that claim. The only document they placed before the court to support their claim was what was described as “The fact-finding Report of Mr Cheruiyot Kiplangat.” The said person was not known to this court and the court was not told what authority he had, nor his competence to make the report.
The court held that the report had no legal basis and was to be rejected. As the application was substantially based on the fact that the appellants had wrongly been evicted from the land, to which they purported to lay a stake, the court found that their reference had automatically failed, based on the finding that the fact-finding report they relied on had no legal authority.
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].