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
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 a petition whereby the petitioners averred that they were land owners on which a wind farm was to be developed. The respondents bought the project rights from the initial owners whose application for the construction of the farm had been successful and sought to expand the farm. They obtained permission from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) by renewing the initial project application.
The petitioners alleged that this was against the provisions of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act and the Constitution as the expansion was not implemented in accordance with the law and would violate their constitutional rights to a clean and healthy environment and their rights to own property. The expansion entailed the farm would encroaching onto their surrounding properties.
The issue faced by the court was whether the expansion was legal and whether the rights of the petitioners had been violated or not.
The court held that the expansion could not be logically carried out at the site captured in the original Environmental Impact Assessment and the EIA study report initially filed with NEMA. It could therefore, not be renewed. They had to file a new application and therefore the renewal of the application was contrary to law.
This failure to adhere to the EIA regulations potentially threatened the petitioners’ right to a clean and healthy environment but not their right to own property as the farm did not make use of their land nor did it threaten to use it up.
The court considered a petition stop the development of flats within a residential area. The property was initially planned as a single dwelling unit but the developer applied for change of user to multiple dwelling units which was approved. The petitioners claimed that the change of user was irregularly granted and claimed that approval from the National Environmental Management Agency was improper because the county government approved the change of user despite multiple objections from the public.
The petitioners sought an order declaring that the decision of the first respondent to change the user was unconstitutional and null and void. Further, that the approval of the re-development amounted to a dereliction of duties.
The court considered 1) whether a proper Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted, 2) whether the process of planning approval was lawfully adhered to and, 3) whether there was a violation of the petitioners' constitutional rights.
It held that the NEMA processes were casually done as objections to the project, were not given a hearing and were not considered before the decision to allow the project was made.
Further, it held that there was no consultation with interested parties as was required by the law. This meant that no proper EIA was carried out and therefore the process of planning approval was legally flawed.
As a result of this, the court held that claims for violations of the right to a clean and healthy environment were breached or at the very least, under threat.
The applicant, sought to review and set aside the 5th respondent’s decision on 3 grounds 1) it failed to adhere to the audi alteram partem principle, 2) the decision was unreasonable, and 3) there was a perception of bias.
The applicant was formed to manage the Long Beach development on behalf of individual members, which gave them the powers to make applications for environmental authorizations.
The audi alteram partem principle entitles affected parties to make representations. The applicant contended that it was denied this opportunity when the 5th respondent made its decision.
The court found that there is a distinction between reasons advanced in support of a decision and concerns that may relate to matters which are not properly addressed. Held, that an uncertainty suggests a lack of clarity to enable the decision maker to apply his mind. However, if an uncertainty is created, the decision maker should afford the applicant an opportunity to answer, and settle those concerns. The court found that the fifth respondent’s actions, in not allowing the applicant to respond, denied it of its right curtail uncertainties and failed to adhere to the audi alteram partem principle.
On the basis of the applicant’s additional grounds, it was found that the arguments for unreasonableness and bias were not sustainable.
The court set aside the 5th respondent’s decision and referred the matter back, to allow the applicant to respond to any uncertainties.
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.
This was a dispute over land ownership and related claims to reversionary interest compensation. Both parties sought orders declaring that they were allodial owners of the land in dispute according to tradition and customs, and that they were entitled to receive the reversionary interest compensation.
The court determined whether the allodial title to the land in dispute vested in individual families or in the appellant as the Tindana for and on behalf of the whole community.
The court held that the best way of resolving conflicts arising from traditional evidence concerning ownership of land is to test it against recent acts to see which traditional version is supported. The court found that it is widely accepted, among legal writers, scholars and practitioners, that the Tindana is the landlord or landowner. Additionally, the report of the committee to investigate a land dispute between the Tindonsobligo and the Kalbeo people explicitly stated that the Tindana was the allodial owner of land, while the people were usufucts (settler/farmers).
The court noted that the defendants Tindana status was not in dispute, and concluded that the appellant was the the allodial owner of Kalbeo land and held it in in trust for community.
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.