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.
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In this case the court provided reasons for granting an interlocutory application to prohibit the respondent from mining on private land pending the outcome of an action for eviction of the respondent.
The applicants alleged that the respondent breached his obligation to rehabilitate the land and provide suitable accommodation for the employees. The court observed that the respondent’s replies to these two aspects were bizarre and that the applicants had made a strong case for cancelling the agreement. Consequently, the court held that the relief sought was justified on the merits of the case.
The court went on to observe that, based on the application of the doctrine of res litigiosa (subject of a pending action) according to Namibian law. The court observed that the right to mine generally fell within the meaning of alienating property as per the common law principle of res litigiosa. However, the provision in the Minerals Act provided that the plaintiff in a pending action for delivery of the res (property) would not automatically become entitled to an interdict against the miner.
The court applied the Webster v Mitchell test as read with the provisions of the Minerals Act. Consequently, it held that even if it was open to some doubt that the mining agreement was validly cancelled, the applicant became entitled to an interdict, with no need to comply with the further requirement to obtain an interim interdict.
Accordingly, the court was satisfied that the applicant was entitled to the relief granted.
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.
This was an appeal against a decision of the High Court to hold the appellants in contempt of an order of the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, issued to the mining companies concerned under s 19(3) of the National Water Act 36 of 1998.
The appellants contended the directives were incapable of implementation because they were so vague. Consequently, the respondent obtained orders from court a quo, compelling the appellant to provide an amount of money as contribution to execute the ministerial order. Following the order, the appellant failed to pay the money. As a result, the appellants applied to have the appellants for contempt.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether an order of the court ordering money to be paid could raise a question of contempt. In overruling the decision of court below, the supreme court stated that it was only where performance of an act was ordered – ad factum praestandum – that conviction for contempt of court was permitted as a means of enforcing performance. It held that contempt proceedings were therefore inappropriate in the circumstances. In conclusion, the court stated that an order that a person was in contempt of court, which carries with it criminal sanctions, should be made only where the court order allegedly flouted was clear and capable of enforcement. Accordingly, the appeal was upheld.
This case concerned a preliminary point raised that the first and second respondents’ legal practitioner should be prohibited from appearing on their behalf. The applicant contended that the legal practitioner who was present at a meeting where the Mining Development Board discussed the shareholding of the respondents, was intimately interested in the subject matter of the proceedings. The applicant further contended that the same legal practitioner should not be allowed to appear for the fifth respondent, the minister of mines and mining development, who ought to be represented only by the Attorney-General as the principal legal advisor to the Government.
In response, the practitioner contended that there was no evidence to determine the depth of his alleged involvement in the matters referred to and that the allegations were based on speculation. He further submitted that he had authority to represent the Attorney-General.
The court had to determine whether it was proper for the legal practitioner to appear for the first, second and fifth respondents.
The court observed that it was important that a legal practitioner should at all times retain his independence in relation to his client and the litigation. On account of the practitioner’s previous involvements with the first and second respondents, the court determined that he could not be allowed to serve as their legal practitioner.
With regard to the representation of the fifth respondent, the court did not make any pronouncement on the basis that it lacked sufficient information. Accordingly, the court upheld the preliminary objection.
This was an appeal against the decision of the Magistrates Court, dismissing the appellant’s application for bail. The appellant was arrested for possessing gold without a licence.
At the initial bail hearing, the Magistrate questioned the issue of abscondment and held that the appellant was unlikely to stand trial for various reasons such as him being a “a man of means” who “could use that status to abscond”. The magistrate further held that the stipulated mandatory penalty “could certainly ignite motives of abscondment” and that “the onus was now on the accused to show on a balance of probabilities that his admission to bail would not prejudice the interests of justice”.
The court, therefore, had to decide whether the magistrate’s approach to onus was erroneous in light of the evidence placed before him.
The court held that the magistrate a quo did not misdirect himself as to the approach to follow but had failed to exercise due diligence. He made unfounded allegations which did not indicate whether the appellant was likely to abscond for those reasons. He had also left a lot of issues open ended such as the severity of the penalty, the issue of passports and had ultimately failed to assess the strength of the evidence forwarded by the appellant.
Therefore, the magistrate a quo misdirected himself his evaluation of the likelihood of abscondment by the appellant and the evidence did not indicate that the appellant would abscond. Accordingly, his decision to decline bail was set aside.
This was an application seeking an order setting aside the sale of granite blocks to the second respondent. The application also sought to compel the first respondent to offer the blocks to the applicant in terms of a ‘right of first refusal’ agreement between them. The application was filed following reception of information that the first respondent was moving granite after a sale to the second respondent without their knowledge.
The application was brought on an urgent basis by the applicant.
The court had to determine whether the matter was urgent and whether the applicant had a claim against the second respondent for granite sold and whether to interdict further movement of the granite in question.
The court held that at the time of the hearing, the granite had not been removed from Zimbabwe and if the applicant was entitled to protection of its rights, it was the duty of the court to ensure that the matter was determined urgently.
It also held that any claim that the applicant had to the right of first refusal would depend on whether it can show that the second respondent was aware or ought to have been aware of its prior right or claim to the stone. The claim fell away as the conduct of the second respondent did not show any mala fide intention.
The interdict application was thus denied because the applicant had no rights to enforce against the second respondent.
The court considered an appeal, concerning a dispute between two companies over the right to mine salt in the Northern Cape.
The high court initially dismissed the appellant’s counter-application in which it sought to review and set aside the Minster's approval of the 1st respondent’s application for a mining permit over the disputed property.
The question on appeal was whether the high court was entitled to refuse to review and set aside the Minister's approval of the 1st respondent’s application without considering whether the 1st respondent had consulted with the appellant, as an 'interested and affected party' as contemplated in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002.
The court found that the answer to the question was dependent on the legal basis that the appellant relied on for its occupancy of the property. As the appellant’s occupation of the property was premised on the validity of a permit, which the high court found to be a forgery and thus invalid, the question arose as to whether the appellant had a right to be consulted even though the permit was invalid.
The court, after careful consideration of the requirements set out in the Act, held that a person that relies on an illegally issued permit to occupy land has no right to be consulted by an applicant for a mining right as contemplated in the Act because they do not qualify as an 'interested and affected party'.
The matter dealt with an application by the state to recall witnesses in a trial in which the accused stood charged in the main count with theft of diamonds, or alternatively with possession of diamonds in contravention of Proclamation 17 of 1939. The court had dismissed the main charge on the basis that the link between the objects which were found in possession of the accused, and which were ultimately valued and identified as rough and uncut diamonds, did not exist. However, the state relied on the alternative and requested the court to recall witnesses to prove that these objects were in fact rough and uncut diamonds.
The main issue was whether it was necessary to recall witnesses for the fair adjudication of a case.
The court stated that where the evidence of a witness was necessary for the fair adjudication of the case, the court was obliged in terms of s 167 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 to recall that witness or those witnesses.
The court established that the evidence was necessary for the fair adjudication of the case between the State and the accused, in the sense that a person who was guilty on that charge might be acquitted but that the giving of such evidence would not lead to an innocent person possibly being found guilty.
The court, therefore, held that the evidence was essential for the fair adjudication of the case and granted the application by the state.
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.
Civil Procedure – application for absolution from the instance – Rules of Court - Rule 100 – principles governing the application discussed – requirement for absolution from the instance - whether or not the plaintiff set out a prima facie case – Law of Evidence - whether failure to examine an expert who has filed his report results in the court attaching no value to the expert report – commercial value attached to the Exclusive Prospecting Licence – court’s discretion on how the value of the EPL License is computed.
Practice – Judgments and orders – Application for stay of execution of judgment pending appeal to Supreme Court – Court having jurisdiction to determine matter in terms of its inherent jurisdiction where dictates of real and substantial justice required it.
Revenue and public finance – income tax – deduction – assessed loss – special mining lease – assessed loss may only be deducted once and not carried forward
The court considered an application for an interdict to restrain the respondents from interfering with its mining operations. In response the respondents filed a counter-application to stop the applicant from mining on its registered mining claim.
The applicant contended that the respondents illegally encroached on its claims and was effectively stealing ore. The respondents alleged that it was the applicant who, through the shafts which were registered in their name, entered their area of activity and stole ore from them. Both prayed that the court interdict the other from accessing the claim and interfering with their mining activities.
The court in considering both applications, held that for an interdict to be granted, the right which was the subject matter of the main action and which was to be protected by means of interim relief must be clear or prima facie established. The court stated that if the right was only prima facie established, there should be a well-grounded apprehension of irreparable harm if the interdict was not granted and that proof of harm ultimately succeeded in establishing the right.
The court found that the applicant led no evidence to show that it suffered any harm let alone irreparable harm. The respondents on the other hand, satisfied the court that the disputed claim was registered in its name. The court, therefore, found that the applicant had no clear right to the claim. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs and the counter-application was upheld.
The court considered a criminal appeal against the sentence imposed on the accused, who was sentenced to a mandatory 2-year imprisonment for contravening s 368 (1), which dealt with the illegal mining of gold, under the Mines and Minerals Act
Before imposing a mandatory sentence, the court asked the accused if there were any special circumstances relating to the commission of the offence which would result in the requisite sentence not being imposed.
The accused held that his special circumstances were that he did not have enough money for a bus fare. The court found that this did not constitute a special circumstance as poverty desperation could not be excused for the commission of a crime.
The court found that a special circumstance is within the court’s discretion and thus it should be taken to be any extenuating circumstance. Further, that the court should enquire into all circumstances put forward by an accused to validate the aspect of a special circumstance.
The court held that a trial court had to ensure that economic situations leading to commission of crimes under economic circumstances at the time did not operate differently for the rich and for the poor. The court found that the court below should have performed a proper enquiry and that the accused should be given the benefit of the doubt. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded.
The court considered an application for an interim interdict preventing the respondents from interfering with the applicant’s business and to remove their security personnel.
The applicant held a licence to deal in scrap metal, particularly to acquire, sell or deal in copper. Police officers, accompanied by the 1st respondent attended at the applicant’s warehouse and advised of its intention to search for certain materials which were suspected to have been stolen from the 1st respondent. The 1st respondent ensured that security were placed at the premises to guard the warehouse until such time as the warrant had been obtained.
The court stated that the requirements for an interim interdict were: 1) a clear right, 2) a well-grounded apprehension of harm if the relief was not granted, 3) balance of convenience, and 4) absence of any alternative remedy.
The court found that there was an alternative remedy available since dealing in copper was a closely controlled trade and that a holder was obliged to keep proper records of the copper in its possession, thus it should have no difficult in accounting for any loss.
The court weighed the prejudice to the applicant if the relief was refused against the prejudice to the respondent if granted. It observed that the purpose of placing the security was to ensure that the premises was safe and no items were lost. If relief was granted, this protection would be lost. Thus, the balance of convenience did not favour the applicant. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
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 case was in the High Court where the applicant sought to interdict the respondent from entering its diamond processing plant and from coming within 100 meters of the plant because the respondent was interfering with its operations.
The issue before the court was to determine if indeed the respondent interfered with the operations of the respondent. In this case, the judge accepted that the applicant had shown prima facie right over the diamond plant, as it set up the plant which it had been mining and operating from for three years. The court held that the right to mine there would have been in doubt but that did not disentitle the applicant to peaceful and undisturbed possession.
The judge also agreed with counsel for the applicant that the respondent had transgressed or disparaged the existing state of affairs by constantly forcing himself onto the plant claiming ownership of same and even attempting to take over the applicant’s employees which amounted to an infringement of the applicant’s rights. The court held that there could be no other remedy except to prevent the respondent from continuing with his unwarranted misadventures at the plant.
Consequently, the respondent, his agents and anyone acting on his instructions were permanently interdicted from entering the applicant’s diamond processing plant or coming within 100 meters of the said plant. The respondent was ordered to bear the costs of the application.
This was a review in the High Court concerning two accused persons who had been charged with and convicted for contravening s 368(2) as read with s 368 (4) of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05] for prospecting for minerals when they were not holders of licences or permits.
The issue facing the court was to determine whether the accused persons, being widows with minor children, were acting under special circumstances, as the trial magistrate had found. The court held that the learned trial magistrate completely misdirected himself in holding that the circumstances of the accused persons amounted to special circumstances, as there was nothing out of the ordinary about being a widow with minor children to look after. The court also held that the learned magistrate’s line of reasoning was faulty in calling that widows and widowers with minor children should be excused when they break the law so as to fend for the minor children, since it was a recipe for anarchy as there were so many widows and widowers in the country.
Consequently, the sentence imposed by the trial magistrate was not allowed to stand and, therefore, set aside. The matter was sent back to the trial court to recall the two accused persons and impose the sentence of two years imprisonment as mandated by law. Since both accused persons had already served four months imprisonment in the form of community service, they were to serve an effective term of 20 months imprisonment.
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.
This was a case in the High Court where two accused persons were convicted on their own pleas of guilty to contravening s 368 of the Mines and Minerals Act by the Provincial Magistrate.
Having found special circumstances as would entitle the trial court to impose a sentence other than the mandatory one provided in the act; the magistrate sentenced each of the accused persons to 24 months imprisonment of which 12 months imprisonment were suspended for 5 years on condition of good future behaviour. The remaining 12 months were suspended on condition they each complete 420 hours of community service.
The issue before the court was to determine the special circumstances as found by the trial court. The judge applied the rule of Judge J Ebrahim in S v Mbewe and others 1988 (1) ZLR 7(H) to make the determination. The judge’s view was that the trial court erred because the issues put up by the accused were mitigating factors of general application which clearly did not amount to special circumstances at all.
Consequently, the judge ordered that the conviction of the two accused persons stood, and set aside the finding of the trial magistrate that there were special circumstances; and the sentence. The judge also ordered the matter to be sent back to the trial court for it to recall the accused persons and impose the appropriate sentence according to law by deducting from it 53 days equivalent to 420 hours community service already served.
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.
The court considered an application for review concerning the forfeiture of gold whereby the respondent was found guilty of contravening s 8(1) of the Gold Trade Act. The accused owned a jewelry shop whereby he traded gold. The Zimbabwe Republic Police Gold Squad regularly visited the accused’s shop to ensure that he was complying with the act. On one visit, it became clear that the accused had not registered 8.59g of gold into the register as required by the act.
The court found that after the conviction of the accused, a review of the record revealed that the learned magistrate had not made an order for the forfeiture of the gold. Despite the accused attempting to secure the return of the gold, he was informed it had been forfeited to the state. Pursuant to the accused’s investigation, and obtaining the record again, the record appeared to make reference to the forfeiture of the gold.
The court found that the only explanation was that the trial magistrate entered the forfeiture clause well after the sentence had been imposed and the accused started claiming the gold. In conclusion, the court found that the conviction and sentence were adequate but held that the forfeiture clause contained in the record be set aside and the accused be sentenced afresh.
This case concerned a dispute over the applicant’s land which became the subject of a mining permit held by the respondent. The applicants sought an interdict from the High Court to suspend all of the respondent’s mining activities. They contended that these activities would cause environmental harm and have negative effects on their business. The respondents argued that by failing to seek suspension of the permit timeously, the applicants exacerbated difficulties for both parties.
The court considered whether the matter was one of urgency and whether the applicants were entitled to the interdict sought. Although the court agreed with the respondent’s observations regarding the failings of the applicants, it held that both parties had an interest in certainty and therefore, took a liberal approach to consider the matter as urgent, noting that this would not prejudice either party.
The court did not find sufficient merit in the grounds for an interdict. The court held that the applicants needed to establish not only a prima facie right, but to show that they would suffer irreparable harm if the relief was not granted. The applicant, however, failed to demonstrate that irreparable harm would ensue if the interdict was not granted.
Consequently, the court did not grant the temporary interdict.
The court also refused to review the administrative decision to grant the respondent a mining permit. It held that the applicant needed to first exhaust all other possible remedies, which it did not do. Accordingly, the court refused the application for review.