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 from the High Court to the Supreme Court. The case concerned a ministerial notice stating that nuclear energy prospecting licenses regarding certain areas will not be provided. The appellant was allegedly an aspiring applicant. He thus felt aggrieved with the notice.
In the High Court, it was held that the appellant lacked legal capacity to challenge the notice as the notice did not create any triable issue. Aggrieved, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.
Thus, the main issue for determination was whether the respondent's notice exempting certain areas from being prospected for nuclear resources was unconstitutional. The appellant’s argument was that the denial of the prospecting license violated his constitutional right to work.
In response, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision, but it disagreed with the High Court that the respondent lacked the legal capacity. According to the Supreme Court, the appellant would have been successful if the minister had no statutory powers to issue the notice or if the process was procedural. However, the minister had such powers under section 122(1) of the Mineral (Prospecting and Mining) Act of 1992. Consequently, the Court held that it cannot order the minister to issue the license if the notice is still in existence. Also, the Supreme Court held that the constitutional provision on the right to work does not mean that people can conduct mining activities without being regulated given the environmental challenges.
Following this, the appellant's case was dismissed with costs.
The plaintiff in this case claimed restitution for a breach of contract. The court determined whether the defendant was in breach of contract for failing to install a working borehole in a geohydrological environment where the plaintiff's farm was located.
The defendant raised a counterclaim that the plaintiff had accepted that work was completed but failed to pay the balance of the agreed amount. The court applied the rule in Du Plessis v Ndjavera that the plaintiff is under no obligation to perform before defendant has completed his performance.
The court held that the defendant was at fault for failing to assess the soil formation in the area and ended up using the incorrect drilling method. The court observed that the defendant admitted to using the riskier direct flush air percussion instead of the mud rotary method to save on expenses and thus failed to complete performance.
Accordingly, the court held that the defendant was in breach of contract and the plaintiff was entitled to cancel the
agreement and claim restitution. The counterclaim was also dismissed with costs.
This matter dealt with a dispute as to whether there was illegal mining by the respondent on the applicant’s exclusive prospecting licence.
The High Court considered whether expert evidence was required to establish a cause of action. The relevant test was whether a witness proffering an opinion is competent to give one on the matter in dispute. In this case, the court considered that only a land surveyor would be competent to determine the precise boundaries of disputed land. The applicant’s witness was a geologist and not a land surveyor. Accordingly, the court held that expert evidence of a land surveyor was necessary and failure to present it was fatal.
The court also considered whether it was permissible for the applicant to introduce new evidence in the replying papers. The court relied on the principle that in motion proceedings the affidavits constitute both the pleadings and the evidence. Furthermore, the applicant could not substitute a different claim in the replying papers. Accordingly, the court did not consider the evidence of the land surveyor tendered by the applicant during motion proceedings.
Finally, the court considered whether to impose a special costs order against the applicant on the scale as between attorney and own client. The principle followed was that punitive costs should only be awarded in exceptional circumstances. The court considered that there was no demonstrable reprehensible conduct by the applicant. Accordingly, the costs only include the costs of one instructing and one instructed counsel.
The first plaintiff concluded a tribute agreement with the second and third defendants that was to last for ten years. The Mining Commissioner rejected this agreement since it was not registrable. This agreement was replaced by a three-year tribute agreement. When this agreement expired, the first plaintiff entered into another agreement with the second plaintiff and they sought an order registering this agreement and the eviction of the second and third defendant. The eviction order was opposed on grounds that the first agreement was still valid.
In interpreting s289 and 290 of the Mines and Minerals Act on tribute agreements, the court made a distinction between directory and peremptory provisions. The court noted that it is impossible to lay down any conclusive test to distinguish the two provisions. However, provisions in negative form and containing penal sanctions are to be regarded as peremptory rather than directory. The court also noted that the intention of the legislature is to be considered when distinguishing the two.
The court found that the provisions were couched in negative form and that their contravention was to be visited with penal sanctions, hence peremptory. Additionally, it was found that the approval was meant to protect the interests of the tributor and to avoid premature cessation of mining operations.
Accordingly, the court declared that the first agreement was invalid and unenforceable; and that the second agreement was valid but had expired. Consequently, the second and third defendants were ordered to vacate or be evicted.
The court considered an application for the granting of an order to evict the respondent pending the hearing of an appeal. The applicant was the registered title holder of four mineral claims. It instituted action seeking an eviction of the respondent from its registered claims, which was subsequently granted. The dispute between the parties related to ownership and mining claims of the minerals. It was not disputed that the mineral claims were registered in the name of the applicant.
The court considered the parties’ rights of ownership of the minerals. These rights were governed by s 172 of the Mines and Minerals Act, which stated that every holder of a registered block of claim would possess the exclusive right of mining or deposit of the mineral in respect of which the block was registered which occurred within the vertical limits of his block. The court found that the applicant had the exclusive right as the registered holder of the claim.
The court found that to suspend the eviction pending the appeal would entitle the respondent to continue mining, which was an untenable situation and would create a judicial anomaly where the court became a party to the respondent’s unlawful conduct. Accordingly, the court granted the application.
This was an application for a spoliation order to summarily undo the wrongful deprivation of property without investigating the merits.
The applicants claimed that their immovable property (10 Metcalf Road, Greendale) and equipment for water abstraction were seized by the first to sixth respondents.
The first to the sixth respondents raised two preliminary objections: that the matter was not urgent and that there was need for police to join as co-respondents since they were the ones who had seized the applicants’ property. The first objection was abandoned while the second was dealt with in the merits of the case.
The court noted that the applicants were required to prove peaceful and undisturbed control before the disturbance and that the respondent took or destroyed the control unlawfully. However, the applicant would not succeed if the respondent proved valid defenses like they did not commit the spoliation or that they were not involved in the spoliation.
The court found that the applicants were in peaceful and undisturbed possession of the property and equipment although, illegally. However, the court noted that the applicants claimed that they were despoiled of their equipment by the first to sixth respondents who were not natural persons but failed to state who acted on their behalf. The court therefore held that the respondents were not involved in the despoiling.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
Constitutional law – Constitution of Zimbabwe 1980 – Declaration of Rights – right to protection of the law – prosecution of former farm employees for unlawfully remaining on farm after acquisition – legislation creating an offence to do so constitutional – no constitutional issue arising
Land – acquisition – former employees remaining on farm – no right to do so – employment ceased on acquisition of farm – liable to prosecution for occupying gazetted land without lawful authority
The court considered an urgent application for an order interdicting the first respondent from carrying on mining operations on the applicants’ mineral claims. At some point, the applicants and the first respondent had business dealings involving minerals from those claims. The respondent then went on to register mining claims over a piece of land which included the first applicant’s mining claims. The respondent argued that the matter was not urgent, and that the relief sought was not competent as it was final in effect.
The court considered whether the applicants had established a right to the relief sought. The court observed that the relief sought was an interim interdict, the requirements for which were: a clear right; irreparable harm; balance of convenience in favour of granting the relief, and no other satisfactory remedy. The court found that the respondent intended to mine on the applicants claim, and although the mining hadn’t commenced, the applicants could not wait until it acted and had established the prejudice likely to be suffered.
In determining the balance of convenience, the court weighed the prejudice to the applicant if the interdict was not granted against the harm to the respondent if the relief was granted. In this instance, as the mining activities were not being carried on yet, there was no prejudice to the respondent. Accordingly, the court found that the requirements for the interdict were met and the application succeeded.
The court considered a criminal appeal, where the applicants had been charged for contravening s7(1)(a) or (b) of the Communal Land Act, by occupying or using communal land without lawful authority. The applicants pleaded guilty and were convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $5000 or 30 days in prison. The appellants appealed the conviction on the ground that the court committed an irregularity by failing to proceed in terms of the correct procedure.
They contended that by entering a guilty plea, the court had a duty to safeguard the fair trial rights of the accused by adopting a procedure which was most likely to suggest a defence where there was one.
The court considered whether the appellant’s conviction was lawful. It observed that with unrepresented accused persons, there was the ever-present likelihood that out of ignorance of the law, a person would admit to charges of a complex nature out of a desire to draw sympathy of the police or the courts and the onus was upon the court to choose a procedure which would have given the appellants a possible defence.
The court found that the conviction was wrong and remitted the matter back to the lower court. In addition, the court below would be required to take cognizance of s 16 of the Act which required that following a conviction, an order for eviction be granted. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded.
This was an application for an order for spoliation. The applicants claimed that they had been unlawfully dispossessed of their quiet and peaceful possession of their property by the first respondent. The first respondent contended that he was issued with a prospecting licence by the second respondent on the same land and that he entered the property on the strength of the authority from second respondent. The applicants alleged that the first respondent entered their land by cutting a fence and causing damage to their property.
The court considered whether or not there had been a spoliation and whether the applicants were entitled to relief. The court established that the first respondent unlawfully deprived the first applicant of its possession of the quarry stone site and that this was an unlawful invasion of the property as the land was private property.
The court noted that the first respondent had not raised any of the recognised defences in an action for spoliation. The court found that the first respondent intended to take over the quarry site by forcibly removing them applicants from the quarry site without following due process as he did not possess a court order to justify his intended action.
Accordingly, the court held that the requirements for an order for spoliation had been met and ordered the respondents to return the applicant’s status quo prior to the spoliation.
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 applicant sought to review and set aside the decision of the Central Farm Dwellers Tribunal (“tribunal”), to evict the applicant.
The decision handed down by the first respondent was initially taken on appeal to the tribunal, which originally denied the request for an appeal as it was filed out of time. The matter was then referred to the Supreme Court, which referred the matter back to the tribunal.
The applicant argued that the decision of the first respondent was reviewable because of the first respondent’s failure to decide whether it acquired the land on which it was situated through acquisitive prescription.
The court considered whether or not it was irregular for the first respondent to direct that the second and third respondents could evict the applicant when there was a claim by the applicant that had not been determined, i.e. the acquisition of the land. The court held that to authorize an eviction before determining the acquisitive prescription would not accord to anyone’s sense of justice.
The court found that the irregular step of the first respondent in authorizing the applicant’s eviction was sufficient to warrant a review and that the court would have to substitute the decision of the first respondent with that of its own.
In this case, the High Court had to consider an application for summary judgement. The plaintiff sought judgement to be ordered in the sum of E130373.77 for professional services it rendered to the defendant, plus mora interest and cost of suit. By means of this procedure for summary judgement, a defence of no substance can be disposed of without putting the plaintiff to the expense of a trial.
The plaintiff argued that it was faced with a defence of no substance and that a summary judgement should accordingly be granted.
The court held that in order to determine whether a summary judgement could be granted, it was necessary to evaluate whether the defendant had raised a triable issue. Relying on the judgement in Mater Delarosa High School v RMJ Stationary (Pty) Ltd unreported Appeal Case No. 3/2005, the court held that they would refuse to grant a summary judgement if there was a reasonable possibility that this would cause an injustice.
The court found that a number of issues needed to be decided in the course of a trial and not ignored by granting a summary judgement. Most crucially, a trial was necessary to decide when payment of the plaintiff was due. Given these circumstances, the court found that it would be premature to dismiss the defence and that doing so, by granting a summary judgement, would possibly cause an injustice.
Accordingly, the application for summary judgement was dismissed by the court and costs were ordered in the cause.
The court considered an application for eviction. The plaintiff averred that the defendants were in unlawful occupation of the property and that there was no agreement, either oral or written, giving them permission to occupy the property. In addition, it was argued that they had no right or title in the property.
The defendants argued that the land in question was concession land and that the deed of transfer was not authentic. The court found that, based on the evidence led, the title deed in question had been prepared and registered by the Deeds Registry and was thus valid.
The court found that although the first defendant alleged that she was born and raised on the property at the time when the land was under a concession, she failed to produce any evidence to support this contention. Thus, without any proof, the court held that her point was moot and could not be accepted.
The court held that based on a balance of probabilities, the property in dispute was a privately held property, validly supported by an authentic title deed in favour of the plaintiff. Accordingly, the defendants could be evicted from the property in question.
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.
The court considered an application for eviction of the respondents from certain homestead and fields allegedly owned by the applicant.
The applicant contended that he was the owner in terms of Swazi law and custom, and that the land on which the homestead was built was allocated to his father through a traditional method of land acquisition. He further argued that the respondents claim was based on the fact that their parents were asked to look after the homestead in the past by the applicant’s mother.
The respondents alleged that the property was allocated to their grandparents. They argue that the second respondent’s father gave the applicant three fields where he built his homestead, after the applicant had come to the land asking for a piece of it.
The court found that the dispute relating to the ownership of the land had been the subject of debate for years and had already been dealt with by the royal council, who had made a decision in favour of the second respondent.
The court held that it had no jurisdiction to deal with the matter, because of the nature of the application and the fact that the council had previously ruled on the boundary between the two homesteads. It held that the applicant should have approached the council instead of the court to address its concerns.
The applicants brought a review to set aside the decision of the first respondent to declare the Malkerns area a town, due to failing to consult with the applicant prior to making this decision.
The minister published three notices, one in 1995 and one in 2010, which were not challenged as the first one did not affect the applicants and the second one was welcomed. The applicants contended that the third notice in 2012 was flawed for two reasons: (1) there was no schedule attached to it and (2) there was no commission of enquiry set to receive presentations from affected individuals.
The court considered whether the minister was bound in law to invite the applicants to make representations or objections before publishing the 2012 notice, and if so, whether the minister did so.
The court found that the minister’s intention in terms of the 2012 notice was to declare the Malkerns a town. It became clear that the minister made her declaration in terms of the Building Act and not the Urban Government Act, and she did so without extending invitation for objection or input from the applicants who would have been prejudiced by her decision.
The court found that instead of making invitation, for objection or input, which the minister failed to do, she declared the area a controlled area, which was grossly irregular. The court held that the conduct of the minister was not within her powers as she made the declaration in terms of two separate pieces of legislation which she tried to use interchangeably. Thus, the decision by the minister was reviewable and set aside.
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].