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 appeal, whereby the plaintiff was claiming pecuniary damages incurred for cleaning up an oil leak into the harbour, for which the defendant was allegedly responsible.
The defence pleaded that the suit was misconceived and that the alleged loss and damage were not recoverable in law. Further, that the plaintiff disclosed no cause of action and that the case ought to be dismissed. The plaintiff relied on two causes of action, the first in negligence and the second, in terms of the strict liability rule.
The high court held that the only damage proved to have been caused by the oil leak was to the sea water surrounding the harbour, and that the plaintiff did not own that water. Thus, the plaintiff had not suffered any damage to its property and further that in bringing oil to its land in the port area, the defendant was not making a non-natural use of the land.
On appeal, the court held that the plaintiff suffered no actual damage to any of its property as water was not the property of the plaintiff, and pecuniary loss arising out of purely precautionary measures taken to clean up pollution, which might cause damage to property, is not recoverable at common law. It held that the storage of oil on land by a person licensed to generate electricity there, the oil being essential for the production of electricity, did not amount to a non-natural user of the land.