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 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.
The court considered an application for the continuation of an interlocutory injunction which was granted to restrain the defendants from entering, cultivating, occupying or developing on the plaintiff’s land. The plaintiff’s father gave him customary land, which he cleared himself and the land was later subdivided. The first defendant alleged that he held a right to the land on account of the growing population of the family.
The court held that an interlocutory injunction is a temporary and exceptional remedy which was available before the rights of the parties had been finally determined. The first issue for the court to determine was whether there was a triable issue. It found that there were pertinent questions regarding the land that had to be determined at trial. The court then considered the issue of compensability, that is, the extent to which damages could be an adequate remedy. The court found that every piece of land had its own unique value and damages would be an inadequate remedy and as the value was difficult to quantify.
The court found that if the interlocutory injunction was not extended the plaintiff would suffer irreparable harm and justice demanded that the land remain intact until the action was determined. Accordingly, the application succeeded.
The court considered an application for the continuation of an order of injunction to restrain the defendants from trespassing or encroaching on the plaintiff’s land, pending the determination of the plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiff alleged that she purchased customary land from the daughter of its previous owner. The plaintiff enjoyed possession of the land, until the defendants alleged that the land was their grandfather’s and the seller had no authority to sell it. Although, the plaintiff argued that she had ownership of the land, the defendants argued that customary land could not be sold or bought, thus she had no right to protect.
The court considered the temporary injunction and whether the plaintiff had disclosed a triable claim. It found that where the applicant had disclosed a good claim to the right, the court would then consider whether damages was an adequate remedy. The court found that the plaintiff’s use of the word bought was incorrect, stating that she parted with money in exchange to acquire the right to use and occupy the land, she however, had a triable right to protect. The court held that the remedy of damages was not adequate as the land was unique.
In conclusion, the court found that the balance of convenience favoured the status quo in protecting the land, used and occupied by the plaintiff until the outcome of the trial and upheld the application
The appellant in this matter claimed that the respondent had encroached onto her land. The lower court found for the respondent and dismissed the claim. The appellant argued that the learned Magistrate erred in law and fact in ordering that the defendant acquired the land in dispute through adverse possession yet there was evidence that the appellant protested the defendant's conduct and further that the magistrate had erred in law in disregarding the laws of inheritance.
The court held that the evidence rendered by the appellant, was insufficient to counter the argument on adverse possession. The defendant and his father had used this land for over 35 years without any disturbance legally for growing trees. The court held that if a person occupied land without the sanction of the owner for 12 years, he was deemed to have acquired it through adverse possession. The court went on to hold that the claim had nothing to do with distribution of intestate property. The pleadings merely spoke of the respondent’s encroachment into her land and nothing to do with intestate succession. That being the case, the lower court would have erred if it had decided the case on the basis of the act when inheritance was not an issue before the lower court.
Accordingly, the case was dismissed.
This was a claim for negligence and damages caused to the plaintiffs’ houses by road construction works that were carried out by the first defendant with the authority of the second defendant. The second defendant argued that the action was statute barred and that it could not be held liable for the first defendant’s negligence since they were independent contractors.
The court noted that the plaintiffs accepted that the action against the second defendant was statute barred but argued that the second defendant waived its right to a remedy under the act. The court held that the joinder of the second defendant to the proceedings was improper. It was further held that the waiver which was not pleaded lacked merit.
Secondly, the court determined whether the first defendant was negligent. The court noted that an action of negligence required the plaintiffs to prove that there was a duty of care owed to them, a breach of the duty and damages suffered thereof. The court held that the first defendant owed the plaintiffs a duty of care not to subject their houses to a risk of damage. However, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to prove a breach of the duty, since there was no evidence that the construction was done without risk assessment and the plaintiffs had been compensated for the damages.
The issue of the second defendant’s liability was found to be redundant, since the action was already dismissed on the basis of the first and second issues.
The matter dealt with an application for an order for the continuation of an interlocutory injunction arising from a dispute regarding encroachment onto the claimant’s land by the defendant.
The court considered whether it should grant an order for the continuation of the interlocutory injunction or discharge the interlocutory injunction.
An interlocutory injunction is a temporary and exceptional remedy which is available before the rights of the parties have been finally determined. In any application for an interlocutory injunction, the court first needs to determine whether there is a serious issue to be tried. If not, the application fails in limine. In this case, it was clear from reading the sworn statements that the facts herein were in dispute and raised pertinent questions to be determined by the court at a full trial.
The court then considered whether damages would constitute an adequate remedy. It held that damages would have been an inadequate remedy in this application.
It was the court’s view that the balance of convenience tilted in favour of allowing the continuation of the interlocutory injunction.
Accordingly, continuation of interlocutory injunction granted.
The matter dealt with an application for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant from entering, cultivating and burning bricks on the claimant's farm lands pending the hearing and determination of this matter or until a further order of the court.
The court considered whether it should grant an order of interlocutory injunction or dismiss the application. An interlocutory injunction is a temporary and exceptional remedy which is available before the rights of the parties have been finally determined.
When considering an application for injunctions, the following principles apply:
1) as long as there is a serious question to be tried, a prima facie case does not have to be shown;
2) whether the plaintiff would be adequately compensated by damages for the loss if they succeed;
3) whether the defendant would be adequately compensated if the plaintiff fails;
4) consider all matters relevant to the balance of convenience;
5) consider the relative strength of each party’s case.
In this case, according to the claimants' own evidence, each of them received a court order to the effect that the judgement of the First Grade Magistrate Court sitting at Mulanje extended to the claimants. Therefore, the court order had to continue to apply until, if at all, a contrary decision was made in the substantive action.
Application for interlocutory injunction dismissed.
This was an action for damages for nuisance and trespass against the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that he was the owner of a property on which the defendant erected a 55m antenna in a brick enclosure along with an unsilenced diesel generator which produced noise. He further claimed that the defendant erected a girder with red flashing lights and positioned two 24-hour security guards at the enclosure. The defendant contended that the property was part of a forest reserve for which it had obtained a licence from the Department of Forestry.
The court considered whether or not the defendant was liable in trespass and nuisance and whether or not the plaintiff was entitled to the damages claimed.
The court found that the plaintiff held a 99-year lease over his property and that the licence granted to the defendant by the Department of Forestry did not specify the exact site for the location of the antenna. It was therefore held that the licence did not justify the trespass. The court concluded that the defendant was liable for trespass on the plaintiff’s land.
In determining the issue on nuisance, the court noted that the plaintiff did not plead the particulars of the alleged nuisance by the defendant and that he did not adduce evidence to prove the allegation of the nuisance. As such, the claim for nuisance was dismissed.
Accordingly, the court awarded the plaintiff damages for trespass.
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.