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 matter deal with a land dispute. After the first defendant declared the plot of land in question a “selected development area” and leased it to the second defendant, the second defendant fenced it off. Prior to this, the plaintiffs had been the lawful occupiers and users of that plot of land which they utilised for agricultural purposes.
Initially, the plaintiffs sought a court order declaring as void the first respondent’s decision to define the plot of land a “selected development area” and an eviction order ejecting the second defendant or, alternatively, a compensation order ordering the defendants to compensate the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs conceded however, that the second defendant did come into occupation of the land legally. Eventually, the parties agreed that the court should decide only whether the plaintiffs were entitled to compensation.
Relying on s45(2) of the Land Act No 17 of 1979, the court held that two conditions must be satisfied for the loser of the right to use and occupy particular piece of land to be entitled to compensation. First, the selected development area that has been declared must consist wholly or partly of agricultural land within a selected agricultural area. Second, the land must be within a "selected agricultural area".
The plaintiffs, however, did neither allege nor prove that the land was in a selected agricultural area. Consequently, the plaintiffs claim for compensation failed and was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an application for an interdict, restraining the respondents and their associates from setting foot near the diamond mine.
The respondents raised several issues, including the material disputes of facts, making the application unsuitable. The correct procedure as the respondents argued, was to proceed through the issuing of summons. The court pointed out that over the years, the court has allowed litigants to proceed by way of action proceedings if facts are not disputed, or if no dispute of fact is foreseeable. The court dealt with the requirements for an interdict and concluded that the applicants met the requirements. The court held that the applicants established a clear right to the mine and the respondents were interfering with such a right. The court also pointed out that there was no clear, alternative right available to the applicants. On the contrary, the respondents had other remedies available in the event that the interdict affected their rights.
The court granted the interdict and restrained the first and second respondents from setting foot at the diamond mine under the administration of the applicant.