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 case concerned an appeal to the High Court by the appellant who subsequently made no further effort to prosecute his appeal. However, the judge was not prepared to leave the matter in that unsatisfactory state and decided to have the appellant and the second accused before the lower court, appear before the court and show cause as to why their sentences should not be increased. The two had been charged with selling uncut diamonds in contravention of s 6 (1)(b) of the Precious Stones Order 1970 and subsequently convicted.
The law applied was s 6(4) of the Precious Stones Order which specified the maximum limit of fine and imprisonment for offenders in this case, for the practice of dealing in uncut diamonds without authority. The judge decided that in his case that justice sternly demanded that illegal schemes to get rich quickly could not be tolerated by the courts. The appellant’s fine was increased in addition to a sentence of 6 months' imprisonment in default of payment.
The court exercised its entitlement to revisional powers to correct the inadequate sentence imposed upon the other offender in the lower court. The judge ordered that in addition to the fine that he had paid, and month spent in prison, the original sentence to imprisonment for twelve months be wholly suspended for three years on the condition that he was not convicted of any offence under the same law.
The plaintiff instituted an action in the High Court for the eviction of the defendants from a piece of land. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were carrying on mining operations at the site without holding a mining lease or a mining licence issued in terms of the Mining Rights Act 43 of 1967, hence acting illegally.
It was common cause that the defendants had not been granted a mining lease or a mining licence by the Mining Board. The defendants argued that the plaintiff did not have locus standi to bring an action of eviction because it did not own the land and that there was a likelihood that granite stone was not a base mineral that fell within the definition in the act.
The judge’s view was that granite stone fell within the definition of a base mineral and the defendants were therefore undertaking a mining operation requiring a lease or licence under the act. The court further held that the defendants held a bogus land grant from the chief. It also found that under s 2 of the Mineral Rights Act the right to minerals in any land were vested in the "Basotho Nation". The judge concluded that the case was not one between landlord and tenant but between landlord (or landowner) and squatter in a situation governed by a unique and unusual land law. Accordingly, a summary judgment was entered for the plaintiff as prayed.
This High Court case involved an accused that was charged with contravening section 6(1) (a) (i) and section 33 (2)(i) read with (ii) of the Precious Stones Order of 1970 (“order”). The charges were that the accused was in possession of three rough and uncut diamonds without being duly licenced to deal in rough and uncut diamonds. The accused pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. However, the High Court was tasked to review the sentence on the ground that the accused was wrongfully charged. The record showed that the accused was merely found possessing the diamond unlawfully and not selling the diamond.
Thus, the issue for review was whether the accused was correctly charged under section 6(1)(a)(i) and section 33(2)(i) read with (ii) of the order.
The High Court accepted that the accused was wrongfully charged under section 6(1)(a)(i) and section 33 (2)(i) read with (ii) of the order, after reviewing the submissions. The court held that the offence he committed was limited to possession of the diamond unlawfully. To the alternative, the court stated that the accused ought to have been charged under section 6(1)(c) of the order which deals with unlawful possession of the diamond. Finally, the court allowed the amendment of the charge and confirmed the three months’ sentence stating that the punishment was proportionate to either of the offences.
This was an appeal to the High Court involving an appellant who was co-charged for contravening Section 6(1)(a)(i) read with (4) of Precious Stones Order of 1970 (“order”) as well as theft. In the case, the appellant allegedly bought diamonds with money that he had stolen from the bank account of his employer. The Magistrate Court acquitted the appellant and the co-accused of the charge of contravening the order. However, the appellant was convicted and sentenced for theft. The appellant’s defence was that he withdrew the money for office use, but that it was then stolen from his wardrobe by an unknown person.
On appeal, the first issue on trial was whether the magistrate erred in finding that the explanation given by the appellant was far from being reasonably accurate. The second was whether there was enough evidence to establish the appellant’s guilt.
The High Court held that the prosecution showed that the appellant withdrew the amount of money alleged to have been stolen from the bank. It found that the conviction by the lower court was well based on (1) the remainder of the money that was unearthed from the appellant’s house; (2) the uncut diamond that was recovered from the appellant; (3) further evidence. The Magistrate Court’s decision was therefore upheld and the appeal dismissed.
The court determined the test for applying its discretion to allow an application for an order for the production of documents during the course of proceedings as per rule 34(14) of the High Court Rules of 1980.
The applicants had previously requested for the production of some documents relating to the grant of mining leases before the trial started but made no attempt to enforce the discovery notice a year later into the proceedings. Thereafter, the applicants made a counter application for production of further documents but never pursued it. The reason for this was the belief that the fifth respondent was no longer represented in the proceedings. The applicants then launched this application against the fifth respondent.
The court made a consideration of the element of delay, insofar as it prejudiced the opposite party by preventing them to bring back their own witnesses and the materiality of the evidence in so far as it was practically conclusive.
It was held that the applicants failed to give an acceptable explanation for the delay for requesting the two sets of documents since they could not prove that they became aware of the documents sought at a later stage.
It was also held that the fifth respondent had not formally withdrawn from the case and would be prejudiced if the discovery was allowed,mainly because they could no longer bring back their witnesses and put the documents in cross-examination.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the magistrate to sentence the first appellant and second appellant to 15 months and ten months imprisonment respectively, for theft of diamonds. The appellants had pleaded guilty to the charge but appealed against their sentences.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether the trial magistrate had erred in passing the respective sentences. The court found that the court below placed too much emphasis on the value of the diamonds and the deterrent nature of the sentences to the exclusion of the personal circumstances of the appellants. Further, it was held that the magistrate did not take into account the cooperation of the appellants or the fact that they were first offenders. The court went on to hold that the magistrate made an unjustified differentiation between the appellants’ sentences.
Accordingly, the court set aside the sentences and substituted them for the payment of a fine amounting to M250 and in default of payment of the fine, imprisonment for two years.
The court had to review an earlier decision by the same court. The accused was charged with contravening the Precious Stones Order of 1970 for wrongful and unlawful dealing in rough and uncut diamonds as a buyer or seller and for possession of uncut diamonds without a licence. The accused had pleaded guilty to all charges and convicted.
The court at hand had to decide on whether the first count of wrongful and unlawful dealing was appropriate in the circumstances and whether the charge and conviction should be amended.
The prosecutor relied on the testimony of the member in charge of the digging area who stated that when he searched the accused, he found three rough and uncut diamonds in her possession and upon requesting a valid dealing license, she failed to do so. There was no indication that the accused was going to sell those diamonds.
The court held that at the time the accused was apprehended she was not dealing in diamonds, but she was merely in possession of them. For there to be a crime there must be an act or on omission, a mere subjective contemplation of future criminal conduct which does not find outward expression indeed or omission is not criminally punishable.
The court held that the correct charge ought to have been one of possession and nothing more and ordered that the charge be amended accordingly. It however maintained that the previous sentence was adequate.
The applicant approached the court by motion proceedings claiming that the suspension of the digging licence at Kao Diamond Mininq by the respondents be declared null and void. The applicant also prayed for damages and costs of the suit.
The respondents raised an objection on a point of law and submitted that the applicant was abusing court process by using motion proceedings to institute a case where there was a dispute of facts.
The court applied the rule that motion proceedings are preferred where the issues are clear. Further, the court held that matters brought by motion proceedings on disputed facts should be dismissed with costs. The court found that the applicant’s claim was based on issues of fact and law thus the difficulty in choosing how to institute the claim.
The court noted that it was required to examine the alleged dispute of fact and see whether in truth there was a real issue of fact which cannot be determined without oral evidence. Additionally, the court had the discretion to decide disputed claims by motion proceedings in appropriate cases.
It was held that the claim on license suspension by motion proceedings was correctly instituted and the damages claim was dismissed. The court applied its discretion as per rule 8 sub-rule (14) of the High Court Rules and ordered the matter to trial for the resolution of the license suspension. It was also ordered that the affidavits be considered as pleadings and the costs of the application be costs in the trial.
This was a counter-application by the fifth respondent (now applicant) against first and sixth respondents (respondents), for an order declaring a mining lease between the Basotho Nation and another company void. The applicants also prayed for costs in the event that the application was opposed. The applicant claimed that there was non-compliance with the procedures prescribed by sections 6 and 7 of the Mining Rights Act of 1967, as amended, when granting the lease.
The court determined whether Order No. 1 of 1970 which was enacted after the coup d'etat of 1970 abolished the office of the King and his executive power of allocating land or interest in land as contended by applicants.
The court noted that the applicant quoted Makenete v Lekhanya and others C of A (CIV) 17/1990 in support of the position that the order abolished the office of the king. However, it was noted that this position was only referred to in the obiter, (not the main holding) which failed to consider the effect of the Regent (Assumption of Office) Notice of 1970.
The court then interpreted the definition of regent to be “one who is invested with royal authority by”. Consequently, it was found that the notice appointed Queen Mamohato Seeiso to be regent for the duration of the King’s absence from Lesotho. It was further held that the king’s office had not been abolished since the queen was appointed to be his regent for the duration of his absence.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The fifth respondent was created by statute for the purpose of implementing a project design to dam water. The dam was built and flooded the area that the appellant had obtained a mining lease for, making mining impossible. The government then unilaterally cancelled the appellants’ lease. The appellants filed an application to set aside this cancellation. Their application was granted.
The fifth respondent filed a counter-application to set aside as null and void the mining lease on the grounds that the mining lease was a nullity because it had allegedly been concluded without a recommendation by the Mining Board and without prior consultation with and approval of the Principal Chiefs within whose areas of jurisdiction the mining lease area fell. The fifth respondent further submitted that such recommendation and prior consultation and approval were peremptorily enjoined by s 6 of the Mining Rights Act No. 43 of 1967, so that non-compliance with both, or with either, of these requirements invalidated the granting of the mining lease by the government to the applicants and rendered it a nullity.
The court considered whether the mining lease complied with requirements of the Mining Rights Act. It found on the facts that the fifth respondent had successfully discharged the onus of proving that neither of the abovementioned requirements had been complied with before the lease was concluded. Accordingly, the lease was set aside. Costs were awarded in favour of the respondent herein.
The appellants in this case appealed against the decision of the High Court to uphold a counter-application by the respondents. The High Court upheld the respondent’s counter application on the basis that certain peremptory conditions had not been fulfilled and by its judgment set aside the appellants’ mining lease and awarded costs in favour of the respondent.
The applicants argued that the requirements that they failed to fulfill were not peremptory and that these requirements were only peremptory prior to the 1970 and 1986 coups. They contended further that the lease agreement having been concluded thereafter, it should not have been declared null and void. The argued further that the court below erred in awarding costs on the attorney and own client scale.
The Court of Appeal held that, while the coups suspended the 1966 Constitution, they did not set at nought all other legislative provisions. It held that the provisions of the Mining Rights Act, relating to the conclusion of mining leases, were still in place. The court further held that the conditions that the appellants failed to fulfill were grounded in long tradition and custom.
Consequently, the appeal was dismissed save on the issue of costs. The court held that the High Court was justified in making a special order as to costs on the issue of conspiracy but that the punitive costs were more appropriate in the circumstances and accordingly adjusted the costs order against the appellants whose conduct was deemed vexatious.
In this case, the applicants sought an interdict against an administrative decision not to renew short term mining leases. The applicants held mining licenses for several years which were renewable every six months. The Minister of Natural Resources, the first respondent sent the Acting Commissioner of Mines and two other officials to inform the applicants that their licenses would expire and not be renewed at the expiration of the six month duration. However, a two months extension was granted to enable final sifting and cessation of operations. Nevertheless, the applicants argued that the notice was too short and that they were legitimately expecting the leases to be renewed again.
The High court noted that the issue at hand was not one of cancellation or revocation, but one of non-renewal. Therefore, the issue that the court examined was whether the administrative decision not to renew the licenses was legal.
The court observed although that the applicants had a legitimate expectation to be heard before the decision not to renew their licences was made, they had been given time and opportunity to air their concerns. The court found that prior to the cancellation, the respondents were informed of the non-renewal on two occasions but made no attempt to persuade the respondents that the intended suspension was inappropriate or prejudicial. The court also held that there was insufficient evidence to show that the respondents had acting in bad faith and dismissed the application.
The court considered an application against the decision to suspend the applicant’s license and for compensation as a result of the suspension or non-renewal of his digging license. The applicant was a diamond digger, who found a large diamond and upon enquiring from the mining advisor of the 1st respondent how to dispose of the diamond and to have it valuated, he decided to keep it, until the diamond went missing. The duty of the advisor was to issue digging licenses and to ensure diamonds were sold legally and correctly. Once the advisor noticed that the diamond was missing, he reported to the government representative.
In terms of his digging license, the applicant worked as part of a co-operative society and a mined diamond belonged to the co-operative to be sold. The applicant argued that the reason the diamond was not kept in a safe place, and rather in a grave, and not reported after it went missing was due to the advisor wanting to benefit from the sale.
The court found that there was no reason for the 1st respondent to lie, and in fact it was the applicant who wished to be the sole beneficiary and to gain from the black-market sale. It held further that there was no possibility that the diamond went missing by accident. Accordingly the application was dismissed.
The matter dealt with a claim by the appellants for an equal portion of shares in the 2nd respondent (a company).
The background to the case is that the 1st applicant and 1st respondent entered into an agreement to pursue a joint mining venture. The parties signed an MOU which stated that they would hold shares in the 2nd respondent. The applicants contended that the MOU implied that they would hold 50 per cent shares in the 2nd respondent.
The court considered the interpretation of the words in the MOU. The court gave the words their ordinary and natural meaning. It was concluded that in the absence of the usual qualifying or quantifying words, the natural and proper conclusion was that, at the time of signing the M0U, the 1st applicant and 1st respondent had not agreed as to the exact percentages of their respective holdings.
The court dismissed the application with costs to the respondents.