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 matter determined whether the principles of granting an injunction should be applied differently in environmental litigation.
The applicants sought an injunction to restrain the respondents from mining and excavation activities which were likely to trigger environmental and health problems. The respondents argued that they were not mining but prospecting and had a license to do so.
The court determined that the applicants had the necessary locus standi by virtue of being persons entitled to a clean and healthy environment as per s3(2) of the Environment Management and Coordination Act (EMCA).
The court determined whether the grounds for the grant of an injunction were satisfied by the application. The court noted that breaches of the environmental statute must be looked at without the trappings of the law on injunctions but rather in line with the principles under s3 of the EMCA.
The court established that anybody who intends to mine or conduct prospecting activities is required to submit a project report and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) as per s58 of the EMCA. It was further held that where the provision is not complied with, it is immaterial whether such person had a license. The court found that the respondent failed to comply with the provisions of the act and declared the respondent’s activities illegal.
The injunction was granted since the environmental factors were not taken into account before the project commenced.
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.
The court considered an application for review of the Appellate Court’s decision to decline to grant certification to appeal. The applicant argued that the Appellate Court failed to appreciate that the matters, in respect of which the applicant sought a decision, were substantial points of law which were of general public importance and transcended the circumstances of the particular case.
The court held that an applicant seeking certification “must satisfy the Court that the issue to be canvassed on appeal is one the determination of which transcends the circumstances of the particular case” and if the applicant’s appeal is based on a point of law, he “must demonstrate that such point is a substantial one, the determination of which will have a significant bearing on the public interest.”
In the present case, the court found that the decisions of the lower courts were based on each of those court’s interpretation of the provisions of the private transportation and storage agreement between Triton Petroleum Company Limited (Triton) and the Respondent and the collateral financing agreement between Triton and the applicant. These were not issues of general public importance which transcended the circumstances of the particular case.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the application.