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 concerned an application on whether the Federal Court had jurisdiction to hear a claim for payment against a chartered ship in a contract for the carriage of fish by sea from Argentina to Nigeria. The facts were that the respondent brought an action in the Federal High Court due to a delay by the appellant to take delivery within the time agreed by the parties in the Bill of Lading. The contract however, stated that any dispute arising would be heard in the Courts of Argentina and the applicant challenged the court’s jurisdiction on this basis. The application was dismissed by the Federal Court and the decision upheld on appeal by the Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court considered whether the lower court had erred in upholding the decision of the Federal Court. It observed that, in the absence of evidence from the respondent on the appellant’s application, there was nothing to consider in favour of the respondent to support their actions contrary to the agreement between the parties, in holding the Federal Court as the proper venue for the hearing and determination of its case against the appellant. It held that in the absence of strong cause shown by the respondent for the trial court not to grant the appellant’s application for stay, the law required that the court exercise its discretion in favour of the appellant by granting the application. Accordingly, the appeal was upheld, and the judgment of the lower court was therefore set aside.
The matter concerned the importation of fish, whereby letters of credit were opened at the appellant bank, by the 1st defendant on behalf of the respondent for the importation, which the respondent had sought to cancel.
The court considered the relationships between the parties and found that the opening of the letters of credit created a relationship between the bank, and the respondent, and also imposed on the appellant an obligation to ensure the rights of the respondent were protected. The court found that the appellant failed to do so and resultantly could not escape liability.
The court held that where a duty exists, it must be faithfully observed, since breach thereof would result in damages. The duty owed to the respondent was established with the opening of the letters of credit. This created an obligation on the part of the appellant to keep to the clear terms, under which the letters of credit were to operate. Accordingly, the court found that it was the appellant’s duty to ensure that the terms thereunder were kept.
The court held that where, in a commercial transaction or a contractual relationship, a party signs a disclaimer, then that party by virtue of the disclaimer avoids liability for breach. The court found that the appellant bank, by implication, withdrew their earlier instructions, through their acceptance of the explanations given by the correspondent bank ,and that fact amounted in effect, to not giving any instructions at all.
The court considered an appeal against the decision of the High Court, in which the trial judge accepted the appellant’s case that the conduct of the respondent in ordering the seizure of her fish, and subsequently dealing with it in a manner inconsistent with the rights of the owner, was unlawful and consequently made an award in her favour for damages, but directed that the appellant pays the appropriate custom duties on the fish.
The issues facing the trial court was whether or not the seizure was lawful, whether the quantum of damages awarded in favour of the appellant was correct and whether the trial court was right to order that the respondent-cross-appellant pay custom duties.
The court held that the appellant suffered damages equivalent not to the cost price but fair market value of the fish. Therefore, it was just for the said amount to attract interest at the prevailing exchange rate from the date of the wrong. Since the fish were wrongfully dealt with by the respondent, there was no merit in the cross appeal.
Finally, the court dismissed the appeal of the appellant as well as the cross appeal of the respondent and affirmed the decision of the court below, however, ordered a variation, in relation to the award of damages and the payment of interest on the custom duties by the respondent.
This was a judicial review against a decision by the Minister of Environmental affairs approving a flawed strategic plan to show commitment for the establishment of a seabird and marine mammal rehabilitation centre. The applicant sought a declaratory order that the first and second respondents failed to adhere to the Revised Record of Decision (ROD).
The origin of the case was an administrative appeal by South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Trust (Samrec) faulting a specific condition in the ROD for not placing any obligation on stakeholders whose operations were likely to affect the marine life of Algoa Bay. Samrec proposed amendments that were rejected.
The ROD was amended to require the stakeholders to submit a strategic plan indicating their commitment to facilitating the establishment of the rehabilitation centre. Samrec faulted this amendment, arguing that the obligation created was not sufficient.
The minister maintained that the first and second respondents were compliant and her department bore the responsibility for environmental protection and oil spillage damage, but considered it necessary to have her views placed before court.
The court applied the rule that it should be slow to substitute or vary an administrative decision since an administrative body is better equipped and has the expertise to make the right decisions than the court, unless court has to step in to ensure fairness. The court held that this was not such a case.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed and each party was ordered to bear its own costs.