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 court considered an application requesting an order to commit the respondents for contempt of court for not respecting an interdict which restrained them from undertaking any developments on the land in dispute, until the determination of an application for interlocutory injunction.
The respondents argued that they were not in contempt since no formal order had been issued to give effect to the orders of the court. The respondents also denied developing the land in dispute. The court noted that there was no requirement for a formal order to be issued, since both parties and their counsel were in court when the order was issued.
The court considered whether the respondents willfully disobeyed the interdict order by going to the land in dispute, to work. The court found that contempt is a criminal offence, which requires an applicant to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, and to make a prima facie case before the respondent’s defence is considered.
The court found that the evidence was inconclusive since the applicant relied on pictures of people building on the land, but failed to identify the respondents as the people in the pictures, alternatively to prove that the respondents sent the people in the pictures.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold an interdict against the applicant to stop the applicant from mining until the respective land in contention was re-zoned to permit mining in terms of provincial legislation. The minister had earlier granted mining permits to the appellant to mine areas zoned as public open spaces in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. The appellant contended the act was superior to the provincial legislation and Supreme Court had erred in upholding the High Court interdict against it. The appellant had claimed that mining fell under the exclusive competence of national government and that the proposition that provincial legislation regulating municipal planning applied to it would be tantamount to allowing municipal government to intrude into the terrain of the national sphere.
The Constitutional Court in determining whether to grant leave considered whether the provincial legislation that required rezoning did not apply to land used for mining.
The court, in rejecting the applicant’s argument, held that the provincial law and the national law served different purposes which fall within the competences of the local and the national sphere. Each sphere was exercising power allocated to it by the Constitution and regulated by the relevant legislation.
The court concluded that the interdicts were invalidly issued and held further that in order to bring clarity to the application of competing laws, leave to appeal ought to be granted in order to deal with the constitutional issues raised.