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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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 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.