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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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 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].
At the heart of this dispute was a farmers’ association, the applicant in this case, and its use of land in the Nkambeni Area. The association was formed, with the chief’s consent after he was assured that the community unanimously supported the project to turn their land into commercial property. The dispute initially arose because the second respondent was denied membership of the association because his younger brother was already representing their family. This offended the second respondent who considered himself to be the legitimate representative. The dispute mutated and the respondents alleged that the chief deprived them of their fields without consent. The court considered whether there had been unlawful deprivation.
Previously, the dispute was taken to traditional structures for resolution and ultimately was referred to the Swazi National Council where the King rendered a judgement. The applicant and respondents disagreed about the contents and effect of this judgement. The applicants stated that the association was given permission to pursue its activities and the respondents invited to apply for alternative land. On the other hand, the respondents claimed that traditional structures and the regional administrator ruled in their favour before the Swazi National Council was approached and that the latter declined to give a ruling on the matter.
After considering evidence and witness testimony, the court found that the applicant’s evidence was cogent and consistent while the respondents’ evidence was unsatisfactory and contradictory. Consequently, the application was granted.
The applicants in this matter approached the high court seeking, inter alia, an interdict preventing the respondents from evicting 140 school children and from demolishing their homesteads.
The residents occupied the land in question through the traditional system of Khonta. After paying the prescribed livestock and fees to the area’s chief, they were allowed to settle on the land. However, it was later discovered that the land belonged to the Swaziland National Provident Fund and was therefore not under the control of the chief.
The applicants argued that the evictions were arbitrary and contravened s 18 and 29 of the Swaziland Constitution and that such evictions were a threat to education of their children.
The court first dealt with the issue of urgency and concluded that the court was prepared to hear the matter on an urgent basis. The court in deciding the matter weighed the rights of the children against those of property owners as contained in the Constitution. It concluded that the rights of children did not supersede the rights of the property owners. Therefore, the court held that the applicants failed to establish the requirements of an interdict and the rest of the orders they were seeking.
The matter was dismissed with costs.
In this High Court case, the applicant had an agreement with the respondent aimed at selling a herd of cattle to the applicant. Based on this agreement, the respondent proceeded to take the herd of cattle presented in the contract without paying for them. An attempt to charge the respondent for theft through the police did not work as the police hesitated to prosecute the respondent because they contended that they would have a weak case.
Then, the applicant decided to prosecute the case privately charging the respondent for spoliation. The applicant demanded that the court should declare that the herd of cattle that were taken by the respondent, in fact belonged to him.
Thus, the issue for determination by the court was to show cause why a declaration should not be made against the respondent to the effect that the herd of cattle be restored to the applicant.
On perusal of the given evidence, the High Court held that the respondent failed to show that the applicant allowed him to take the herd of cattle in dispute. Subsequently, the applicant was despoiled of the herd of cattle, that is, possession should be restored to the applicant. The respondent was also ordered to hand over to the applicant the progeny of the cattle forming the subject matter of the proceedings.
Civil Procedure ̶ Application by Appellant for an order ejecting the Respondents from the land situate at Mhlaleni, directing the Respondents to demolish all structures they have constructed on the land and interdicting Respondent’s from carrying out any activities on the land – Dispute over the territorial jurisdiction over the area where land is situate – Plea of lis pendens raised by the Respondents - whether matter pending determination by the High Court or the traditional authorities – High Court upholds plea of lis pendens and orders status quo prevailing to be maintained pending determination by appropriate authority – Whether High Court erred in so holding – Whether High Court has jurisdiction to entertain matters relating to land pending before traditional authorities having regard to Section 151 (3) (b) of the Constitution - Held that High Court has no original jurisdiction to entertain matters in which a Swazi Court has jurisdiction, but High Court has only revisional and appellate juridiction as provided by Section 151 (3) of the Constitution - where a matter is pending or has been determined by the traditional authorities, the High Court must refer the matter back to those authorities for determination or enforcement – Decision of High Court upheld, and – Appeal dismissed with costs.