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 tribunal considered an appeal against the approval and issuance of a license for the construction of human waste sewage ponds in a residential area. The appellants argued the following: that they, had not been consulted; that the project would cause significant environmental damage; that the project lacked adequate mitigation measures; and that the respondents did not follow the relevant statutory provisions. The appellants sought cancellation of the license; an order to stop construction of the project; restitution, compensation as well as a guarantee of non- repetition; and environmental restoration. The respondents insisted that they had satisfied the relevant provisions and urged the tribunal to dismiss the appeal with costs.
The main issue for the tribunal’s consideration was whether there was effective public participation. It found that the respondents fell short of the requirement to issue two public notices. The tribunal also found that the respondents failed to demonstrate that they held three public meetings and that they made radio-announcements. It concluded therefor that public participation was not carried out effectively.
The tribunal went on to consider whether the project adhered to the Environment Management and Coordination (Water Quality) Regulations 2006; the Environment Management and Coordination (Wetlands, River Banks, Lake Shores and Sea Shore Management) Regulations 2009; and the Environmental Management and Co-Ordination (Air Quality) Regulations 2014. It found that the respondents failed to adhere to any of these. Accordingly, the tribunal upheld the appeal.
This was a petition brought by various parties challenging the implementation and design of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET Project). The court considered whether the implementation of the project violated the rights of the affected communities.
The court observed that the rights of citizens regarding information on environmental matters, public participation, and access to justice were indispensable to foster sustainable development. The court found that the various petitioners’ rights were violated or could potentially be violated by the project, including the rights to fishing and to a clean and healthy environment.
The court ordered the project designers to engage the community as a distinct group and to mitigate on how the project, would affect their rights to culture. Secondly, it ordered the respondents to design a measurable and actionable plan, in consultation with the affected community on how to protect the cultural identity during and after the construction of the project. Thirdly, it ordered the government to draw up a management plan to preserve the Lamu Island as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as directed through UNESCO declarations. Fourthly, it ordered the department responsible for issuing environmental impact assessments to ensure that the rights of the communities were implemented before reconsidering the licence. Accordingly, the petition was upheld.
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 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 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 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 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.
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 an appeal to the High Court against the decision of a magistrate to dismiss the appellant’s claim which concerned a dispute over a customary piece of land. While the appellant stated that the part of the land in dispute was his, the respondent maintained otherwise.
The issue for determination was whether the land belonged to the respondent or the appellant. The court held that in civil cases, the evidence was on a balance of probability. As such, the respondent’s evidence that he was the one given the land by the chief carried more weight and was therefore convincing. The court further held that customary lands were owned communally, which meant that the chief did not own the land as his belonging. Therefore, the court stated that the chief did not have the power to deprive one person of land and give it to another. In conclusion, the court upheld the decision of the court below and accordingly dismissed the appeal.
This was an appeal against the decision of a magistrate to order the appellant to vacate a disputed piece of customary land. The appellant applied for a stay of execution of judgment pending appeal.
The two issues for the court’s determination were, whether the appellant was duly allocated the piece of land according to customary law, and whether he had the right of usage and occupation. The court applied the burden and standard of proof based on a balance of probabilities, and ss 2, 25 and 26 of the Land Act which regarding title and ownership of customary land.
The court found out that the respondent had left the land unattended for a period of 13 years and, although this did not remove his right of usage and occupation, the status quo could not be maintained. The court observed that, the land was lying idle when it was allocated by the Group village Headman to the appellant who in turn redeveloped it by building a house, a grocery store and planted trees and fruits. The court held that the respondent sat on his rights and allowed the appellant to develop the land. The court also found that respondent’s conduct had been unreasonable during the time that the appellant developed the land.
In conclusion, the judge held that the appellant was duly allocated the piece of customary land according to law and that he then had permanent rights of usage and occupation. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded with costs.
This was a mediation report regarding an action commenced by the plaintiffs against the installation of a water pump and other construction works on what was believed to be customary land. The plaintiffs sought to restrain the defendant from interfering with their customary rights on the land. They contended that the water pump installation plan violated their right to the use and enjoyment of their customary land. The matter was set for mediation.
The issue for resolution was whether the project interfered with the customary land held by the plaintiffs.
An agreement was reached by the parties to the effect that the project was located in an intersection of the road reserve which was public land pursuant to the Waterworks Act and that the defendants had obtained the requisite authority to install the water pump and related works. The proposed construction of the water pump was therefore not in violation of any customary rights for as long as it was restricted within the road reserve. Accordingly, the matter was resolved.
This was an application by the plaintiff claiming compensation for the land which was compulsorily acquired by the defendant. The plaintiff made a further claim for compensation for the destruction of 390 banana plants. The court had to decide on the quantum of damages payable for the loss of use and occupation of land and the loss of the 390 banana plants.
The court first dealt with the general principles guiding compensation and considered the applicable legal provisions. The court held that the main principle underpinning damages was restitution. In addition, the court listed several grounds under which compensation can be calculated. These grounds included a calculation of compensation based on the market value of the land; compensation based on the depreciation of value, if only a part of the land was expropriated; disturbance compensation among other guiding principles.
In awarding judgment for the plaintiff, the court considered the nature of the deprivation and concluded that such deprivation was permanent. The plaintiff was awarded MK3, 812, 000.00 as compensation and the respondent was ordered to pay the costs.
This was an appeal against a decision of a magistrate to dismiss the appellant’s claim over a piece of customary land which he claimed was unlawfully in the possession of the second respondent, his son. The appellant had left the village for a long time and upon returning found that the first respondent had constructed a home on his land. The appellant instructed the first respondent to vacate land but he refused and proceeded to sell the land to the second respondent. The appellant told the court below that he inherited the piece of land from his father. The lower court found that the appellant had failed to adduce enough evidence to show that the land belonged to him.
The court had to determine the following: which party had the right of occupation of the land; whether the land was lawfully transferred to the second respondent and whether a permanent injunction could be granted restraining the appellant or the respondents from interfering with the land in question.
The court held that although the land had been given to the first respondent customarily, chiefs must be guided by the law specifically, the Constitution and it was against the law to deprive any person the right to use and occupy customary land without any justification at law. It held that indefinite individual usage and occupation of customary land was therefore permissible under the laws of Malawi and the subsequent transfer was legal. Accordingly, the court upheld the lower court ruling.
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.
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.