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 a bail appeal against the decision of the magistrate that denied the appellants bail on grounds that they were likely to abscond trial.
The appellants were charged with unlawful prospecting for minerals, oil and natural gas without a valid license contrary to s 368 (1)(a) as read with s 4 of the Mines and Minerals Act 1 of 2006.
The court noted that the magistrate condemned the applicants to imprisonment where the state was not opposing bail, without evidence that the appellants were likely to abscond trial and without any defence from the appellants on the bail issue.
The court found that the state could not oppose the appeal since they had already conceded that the appellants were good candidates for bail.
It was held that the magistrate misdirected himself. Accordingly, bail was granted subject to conditions. The appellants were required to deposit US$20 with the clerk of Court Bindura Magistrate Court, to continue residing at their places of residence until finalization of the matter and to report to respective police stations as directed by the court.
The court considered an application for review concerning the decision handed down by the Magistrate’s Court on whether the accused’s case should have been discharged. The facts were that whilst the complainant was being investigated by the police for theft by finding of gold, the accused, a magistrate, approached the complainant and solicited him for a bribe to dispose of his case. The complainant made a report to the police who set a trap to arrest the accused, after she had received the money.
The defence applied for a discharge of the case, which was granted on the basis that the state witnesses were not truthful.
The court considered whether the magistrate’s decision to the discharge the case was exercised judicially. The court found that the trial court had a discretion to discharge or continue with the trial, and that such discretion ought to have be exercised judicially.
The court stated that a discharge was appropriate where: there was no evidence to prove an essential element of the offence; or no evidence on which a reasonable court would convict; or where the evidence was so unreliable that no reasonable court could act on it. The court held that there was nothing indicating that the witnesses had been discredited and that it was a misdirection for the magistrate to treat the assertions made by the accused as though they were evidence. Accordingly, the court set aside the accused’s discharge and referred the matter back to court for continuation of trial.
The court considered an application for a provisional order seeking an interim interdict restraining the respondents from interfering in the applicant’s mining operations. A dispute arose between the parties concerning the boundary between their two claims. It was argued that the commissioner found that the respondent was working outside one of his claims and inside one claim belonging to the applicant.
The court considered whether the interim relief sought should be granted. The court found that the respondent acknowledged that the claim belonged to the applicant but that the commissioner erred in determining that the boundary was within the applicant’s claim. The court held that the applicant had established a prima facie right which required legal protection and that the respondent was entitled to challenge the commissioner’s determination.
The court found further that the respondent did not exercise their right to challenge the determination by the commissioner but rather chose to write letters of complaint which were not sufficient. The court stated that the respondent ought to have formally challenged the commissioner’s boundary determination and in the circumstances could not legally resist the interdict sought by the applicant. The court therefore granted the interdict.
The court considered an application to review a sentence imposed on the accused. The accused was charged with contravening s 3(1) of the Gold Trade Act by virtue of being found in possession of 0.62g of gold valued at $20.62. The accused pleaded guilty and was convicted. The lower court imposed a short sentence whereas as the act stipulated of not less than 5 years for persons found guilty of the offence, unless special circumstances existed showing cause why the mandatory sentence should not be imposed. The magistrate relied on special circumstances pleaded in mitigation.
The special circumstances referred to by the accused were that his wife was in hospital and was going to undergo surgery and that he committed the offence to raise hospital fees and money for the surgery
The court found that these were not special circumstances as envisaged by the act but that what the accused relied on was a common occurrence and did not entail that persons in such situations ought to resort to crime. The court held further, that his illegal action was not a solution to this problem nor would $20 be enough to pay the hospital bills.
The court held that there was no reason why the mandatory sentence should not be imposed. Accordingly, the court set aside the sentence imposed by the trial court and remitted it back to impose the mandatory sentence.