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 appeal from a decision in an application for judicial review. The appellant was aggrieved by the lower court’s finding that the appellant was not entitled to the orders sought for failure to disclose that an appellate procedure existed under s 129 of the Environmental and Management Co-ordination Act 1999 (EMCA) and not demonstrating why judicial review was preferred to an appeal to the National Environmental Tribunal under the act, upon being dissatisfied with the National Environmental Management Authority’s (NEMA) decisions.
NEMA had ordered the appellant to conduct a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) under s 138 of the EMCA and to cease construction on the suit land.
The court determined whether the trial judge erred in finding that the appellant failed to demonstrate that judicial review was more suitable than an appeal to the tribunal.
The court held that the trial judge arrived at the right conclusion. The court applied the rule that, where an alternative remedy such as a statutory appeal procedure existed, judicial review can only be granted in exceptional circumstances. The court noted that the appellant failed to demonstrate these exceptional circumstances and should have made an appeal to the tribunal instead.
The court also found that public participation is a crucial aspect in environmental matters. The court noted that the fresh EIA as ordered by NEMA would give the appellant an opportunity to ensure public participation which had been ignored in the first EIA.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
This was an appeal against the decision of the respondents refusing to issue an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Licence for the appellants’ housing project. The appellants asked the tribunal to set aside the decision and award costs of the appeal.
The respondents argued that they had received strong objections from members of the local community since the project was in a wildlife migratory corridor and dispersal area.
The tribunal determined whether the respondents were justified in their decision, subject to the objections, without considering if the objectives of the project could be met in absence of the project. The tribunal noted that the objecting stakeholders also found the project to be worthwhile. The tribunal found that the respondents failed by ascertaining that the views of the objecting stakeholders expressed the views of a significant section of the local community. The tribunal also found that the respondents failed to demonstrate that the potential adverse impacts could not be mitigated.
Based on these findings, the tribunal unanimously set aside the respondents’ decision and issued an EIA licence for the appellants’ project but on several conditions
The court considered an appeal against the condition attached by the respondent, to its approval of a housing project.
The appellant intended to build a seven storey building, but the respondent restricted it to four. The appellant contended that the limitation placed on the number of storeys and refusal to allow construction for residential floors, below ground level, was unlawful, which had already been approved by the city council.
Upon request to the tribunal, residents of the area were enjoined to the appeal as interested parties, arguing that the appellant’s development did not respect the stipulated environment, and planning regulations, that permitted only a maximum of four storey buildings in Zone 4, where the proposed construction was located.
The tribunal considered whether the limitations placed on the construction were justified. It held that the respondent had the authority to impose conditions that it deemed necessary to prevent and/or reduce negative environmental impacts that might result from an activity, and therefore had the lawful authority to regulate the appellant’s activity.
Under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) and the regulations made under it, the respondent’s authority superseded that of the city council and any action the Council may have taken regarding the proposed development. The tribunal found that the city council’s approval was not lawful. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The court considered an application declaring that the applicants right to life had been contravened by forcible eviction, as well as their right to protection of the law.
The applicants averred that they had resided and carried on farming on the land from which they were evicted for 61 years. After the land had been degazetted for settlement by Gazette Notices, the applicants claimed that their subsequent eviction was an infringement of their constitutional rights.
The Applicants claimed to reside and possess the land in dispute but did not lay any credible foundation to that claim. The only document they placed before the court to support their claim was what was described as “The fact-finding Report of Mr Cheruiyot Kiplangat.” The said person was not known to this court and the court was not told what authority he had, nor his competence to make the report.
The court held that the report had no legal basis and was to be rejected. As the application was substantially based on the fact that the appellants had wrongly been evicted from the land, to which they purported to lay a stake, the court found that their reference had automatically failed, based on the finding that the fact-finding report they relied on had no legal authority.
This was an application for a temporary injunction to restrain the defendant from cutting down trees, felling logs or dealing in whatever manner with the plaintiff’s land.
The plaintiff contended that the respondent had committed trespass and malicious damage to the property on his land. On the other hand, the defendant argued that it was not the registered owner of the land but had entered into an agreement with the government to harvest forest produce in government forests in exchange for royalties.
The court found that the plaintiff was the registered owner of the land and that the defendant lacked the capacity to question the validity of the plaintiff’s ownership.
It was further held that the plaintiff had established the requirements for an injunction. The plaintiff established a prima facie case with a likelihood of success against the defendant. Further, that if the relief was not granted the plaintiff would suffer irreparable loss as all the trees on his land would be cut down.
Accordingly, the application succeeded with costs to the respondents. The court issued the injunction and directed the applicant to mark out the boundaries of his land so that the respondent would excluded from its operations.
This was a review against the respondent’s decisions to set apart land on Funzi Island and grant registration titles to Pati Limited. The applicant prayed for prohibition and certiorari orders since the respondent made the decisions in excess of its jurisdiction and power.
The applicant argued that the land in dispute was forest land, and that no allotment could have legally taken place on the land unless there was a declaration that it had ceased to be forest land. The court found that when the proceedings commenced, it was assumed that the land was trust land, and despite argument, the applicant failed to adduce enough evidence to prove that the land was forest land. The land was thus declared to be trust land.
Secondly on the applicant’s disputed locus standi, the court found that the applicant’s properties were separated by about 200 metres from the disputed property. Further, the court found that even if the land was forest land, only the authorities in the Ministry in charge of the forest lands had the capacity to defend it. Consequently, it was held that the applicants lacked the requisite locus standi.
Finally, the court found that the respondent complied with the requirements in the Trust Act and dismissed the orders prayed for.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The applicants challenged the respondent’s issuance of improvement notices with respect to their properties; on grounds of encroachment on a riparian reserve contrary to law.
The applicants prayed for an injunction restraining the respondents from enforcing the notices and entering their properties. They also prayed for a declaration that the notices were void since they were issued without regard for fair administrative action and due process; and an order for costs.
Without delving into the merits of the main matter pending in the tribunal, the court found that the appellants had established
the requirements for an injunction. Firstly, because the appellants had established a prima facie case with a probability of success at trial based on the intriguing legal and factual arguments. Secondly, the court noted that there was no other alternative remedy since the appellants would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction was not granted. Mainly because the subjects of the consolidated appeals suffered the risk of being rendered nugatory by enforcement of the improvement notices. Finally, the court found that the balance of convenience lied in the favour of the appellants because the respondents failed to point an immediate, ongoing or direct harm to the environment that necessitated the immediate enforcement of the improvement notices.
Accordingly, the application succeeded.
This application was brought pursuant to the provisions of Rule 19 of the National Environmental Tribunal Procedure Rules, 2003; to invoke the powers of the tribunal to strike out the respondent’s reply for disobedience of the tribunal’s order. The applicants argued that the 2nd respondent had disobeyed a stop order to stop all activities relating to the construction of 2 residential homes. They contended that this amounted to an abuse of due process of the tribunal.
The respondents argued that the application was defective and bad in law.
The court determined whether the actions of the 2nd respondent were illegal and unlawful. The court found that a stop order was issued and that the 2nd respondent had temporarily complied with the stop order until it decided to proceed with the development. However, the court held that the applicants could not invoke the tribunal’s powers despite the disobedience, mainly because the stop order was not granted upon an application for directions made under part V of the National Environmental Tribunal Procedure Rules.
Further, it became apparent that the advocate appearing for the applicants had deposed to the affidavit in support of the application. The court found that an advocate should not depose to an affidavit in a matter which he is appearing. Further, that he should not depose to an affidavit on information supplied by his client when his client is available to swear on his own. The court thereby struck the affidavit out, and as a result the application could not stand on its own.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
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.
The first plaintiff concluded a tribute agreement with the second and third defendants that was to last for ten years. The Mining Commissioner rejected this agreement since it was not registrable. This agreement was replaced by a three-year tribute agreement. When this agreement expired, the first plaintiff entered into another agreement with the second plaintiff and they sought an order registering this agreement and the eviction of the second and third defendant. The eviction order was opposed on grounds that the first agreement was still valid.
In interpreting s289 and 290 of the Mines and Minerals Act on tribute agreements, the court made a distinction between directory and peremptory provisions. The court noted that it is impossible to lay down any conclusive test to distinguish the two provisions. However, provisions in negative form and containing penal sanctions are to be regarded as peremptory rather than directory. The court also noted that the intention of the legislature is to be considered when distinguishing the two.
The court found that the provisions were couched in negative form and that their contravention was to be visited with penal sanctions, hence peremptory. Additionally, it was found that the approval was meant to protect the interests of the tributor and to avoid premature cessation of mining operations.
Accordingly, the court declared that the first agreement was invalid and unenforceable; and that the second agreement was valid but had expired. Consequently, the second and third defendants were ordered to vacate or be evicted.
The court considered an application for the granting of an order to evict the respondent pending the hearing of an appeal. The applicant was the registered title holder of four mineral claims. It instituted action seeking an eviction of the respondent from its registered claims, which was subsequently granted. The dispute between the parties related to ownership and mining claims of the minerals. It was not disputed that the mineral claims were registered in the name of the applicant.
The court considered the parties’ rights of ownership of the minerals. These rights were governed by s 172 of the Mines and Minerals Act, which stated that every holder of a registered block of claim would possess the exclusive right of mining or deposit of the mineral in respect of which the block was registered which occurred within the vertical limits of his block. The court found that the applicant had the exclusive right as the registered holder of the claim.
The court found that to suspend the eviction pending the appeal would entitle the respondent to continue mining, which was an untenable situation and would create a judicial anomaly where the court became a party to the respondent’s unlawful conduct. Accordingly, the court granted the application.
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 an urgent application for an order interdicting the first respondent from carrying on mining operations on the applicants’ mineral claims. At some point, the applicants and the first respondent had business dealings involving minerals from those claims. The respondent then went on to register mining claims over a piece of land which included the first applicant’s mining claims. The respondent argued that the matter was not urgent, and that the relief sought was not competent as it was final in effect.
The court considered whether the applicants had established a right to the relief sought. The court observed that the relief sought was an interim interdict, the requirements for which were: a clear right; irreparable harm; balance of convenience in favour of granting the relief, and no other satisfactory remedy. The court found that the respondent intended to mine on the applicants claim, and although the mining hadn’t commenced, the applicants could not wait until it acted and had established the prejudice likely to be suffered.
In determining the balance of convenience, the court weighed the prejudice to the applicant if the interdict was not granted against the harm to the respondent if the relief was granted. In this instance, as the mining activities were not being carried on yet, there was no prejudice to the respondent. Accordingly, the court found that the requirements for the interdict were met and the application succeeded.