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 an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal to strike out the appellant’s appeal on the ground that it only paid a fraction of the filing fee.
The respondents had filled an action claiming monetary compensation for a diesel spill from the appellant's facility which polluted the respondents’ water. The appellant admitted the spillage and judgment was passed against it. On appeal it paid N200 instead of N5000 to file documents into the registry. The respondents urged the court to dismiss the appeal on the basis of this and other irregularities. The appeal arose from an attempt by the appellant to regularise the payment of fees prior to the filing of the appeal but this was dismissed as incompetent due to payment of inadequate fees.
The court considered whether the lower court was right to strike out the appeal. It observed that a discretionary decision based on a principle that inadequate filing fees was fatal to an appeal was a wrong exercise of discretion. The court differentiated non-payment of fees from payment of inadequate fees. It held that a court of law could not allow the provisions of an enactment to be read in a way that would deny citizens access to court, thereby denying a litigant access to justice. It found that the lower court’s striking out of the appeal denied the appellant access to court.
Accordingly, the appeal was upheld and the appellant ordered to pay the correct fees.
The court considered an appeal against the decision of the House of Representatives. It passed a resolution directing the Respondent to pay to the Appellant compensation in the sum of $1.5 Billion for damages/compensation for environmental degradation of the Appellants' communities by oil drilling.
The High Court ordered the Respondent to comply with the resolution and pay to the Appellants the said sum. However, the respondent was able to obtain a stay of execution of the judgment in the trial court granted that the applicant deposits the outstanding amount pending the outcome of the subsequent appeal.
The Respondent wanted this varied and was successful. The applicant disputed this before this court pleading for unconditional stay of execution.
The court had to determine whether there were justifiable reasons to grant an unconditional stay of execution.
The court held that a stay of execution, conditional or unconditional, is granted at the discretion of the court and an appeal court will only interfere where the discretion was wrongly exercised or irregular.
The learned justices of the Court of Appeal took into consideration the consequences of an unsuccessful appeal and a successful one, and came to the conclusion that an unconditional stay of execution met the justice of the case since the Respondent (in this appeal) had assets within the jurisdiction of the court to defray the judgment sum. The facts and circumstances clearly did not support tying down $1.5 Billion to await judgment at the end of lengthy appeals.
The appeal was thereby dismissed.
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.
The court considered a final appeal against a decision by the Court of Appeal to dismiss the plaintiff’s first appeal against the judgement of the Trial Court.
The origin of this matter was a writ of summons issued to the respondent for payment of money that was deposited as compensation by a third party for their mining operations. The respondent then filed a cross-action seeking a declaration that he was entitled to the compensation and an injunction restraining the appellant’s from claiming the money.
The suits were consolidated and the trial judge gave judgement in favor of the respondent after having found that land used for the third party’s mining operations belonged to him, not the appellant. The appellant then filed an appeal which was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. Still dissatisfied, the appellant filed this final appeal calling upon the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision and to finally determine the matter.
The court found that the lower court adequately considered all the relevant issues. It further found that the High Court of Imo State had requisite jurisdiction to hear the case. The court noted that the appellant stretched the meaning of s 7(1)(p) of Decree No. 60 of 199, beyond reasonable limit by purporting that it ousted the High Court’s jurisdiction in matters of compensating land owners.
The court concluded that the appeal was without merit and deserving of punitive costs. The appeal was dismissed.
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 matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal that upheld a decision of the High Court to order that compensation be paid to the respondents for damage caused to economic crops, fish ponds and lakes by the activities of an oil company. The appellants contended that the respondents, despite being occupiers of the land, were customary tenants and that they (appellants) were exclusively entitled to compensation as the owners of the land. The Court of Appeal in upholding the decision of the High Court held that the matter was not predicated on title to land but rather one for entitlement to compensation and granted judgment in favour of the respondents.
The Supreme Court considered whether the lower court was wrong to have heldáthat title to the land, the subject of claim for compensation by the parties, was not in issue. The court held that the issue of claim of title was certainly not before the trialácourt and the learned trial judge was right in not consideringáand determining that issue in his judgment. Accordingly, it held that the court below was right in upholding the trial court's decision that the identity of the land in question was not an issue and claim was solely one for compensation and not title. Accordingly the court dismissed the appeal.
The court considered whether the State High Court had jurisdiction to entertain a matter about mines and minerals.
The court held that according to s 251(1)(n) of the Constitution as amended, the Federal High Court had jurisdiction about mining operations.
The court found that the statement of claim showed that the cause of action accrued in 1996; therefore, the law that was in existence at that time is applicable. Further, the court found that the construction, operation and maintenance of an oil pipeline by a holder of oil prospecting license is an act of mining operations. The facts of the case therefore fell within s 230(1)(0) of the 1979 Constitution. The trial court lacked jurisdiction.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal.
This matter dealt with an appeal against both conviction and sentence of the contravention of ss 30(1) and 28 of Proclamation 17 of 1939 pertaining to the theft of diamonds.
The Supreme Court considered whether contradictions in the state case raised reasonable doubt. The court considered that the failure to testify when there is direct evidence of an offence, tends to strengthen the direct evidence, because there is nothing to contradict it. In this case the state witness gave evidence implicating the appellant which called for an answer but did not receive one.
The court considered whether the state witness was a trap. The definition of a trap is someone who proposes criminal conduct to someone else with the intention of securing the conviction of that other person whilst ostensibly taking part himself. The court considered that the state witness took part in the commission of the offence, knowingly stood to gain from the appellant’s arrest and had broached the subject. However, the appellant should have challenged the truth of the assertions made by the witness which he did not. Accordingly, the court held that the appeal against conviction had no merit.
The court considered mitigating factors, particularly entrapment. The court determined that the interests of society are safeguarded by a system of justice that excludes the false entrapping of innocent people because it may bring to court people who had no interest in stealing diamonds. Accordingly, the court upheld the appeal against sentence.
The matter dealt with the interpretation of particular terms of a prospecting agreement which arose from the mining of a grant area.
The Supreme Court considered whether to declare that clause 8 (a) created an obligation to provide sufficient funds on a continuing basis. The test was whether the obligation to fund was limited. The appellant’s argument was based upon a literal reading which the court held was absurd as it would result in regarding the obligation as an unlimited one. Accordingly, the court held that the express terms of the clause contemplated further funding to be determined by a further mutual agreement.
The court considered whether clause 10 entitled the second respondent to call up its loan. The court reasoned that if the loan was never repayable it would not be a loan. The court held that the respondent, Iscor, was not precluded from calling up its loan and to say that it would be is far too wide.
The court considered whether to grant the declaratory order in terms of clause 9. The court found the prayer to be too vague to warrant a declaration. Accordingly, the court held that the declarator sought was without substance.
In order for a declarator to be granted the issue which the declarator seeks to address must be in dispute between the parties. In the circumstances there was no material time when there had been a dispute about the continued existence of the agreement. Accordingly, the court held that it would not grant the declarator sought.
The appeal was dismissed with costs.
This was an appeal against the decision of the court a quo, which dismissed an urgent application on the ground that the application was not urgent.
The court dealt with the requirements for a judgment to be appealable. The court relied on the Erasmus Superior Court Practice, A1 – 43 in formulating the requirements. First, the decision must be final in nature and not capable of alteration by the court hearing the matter. Secondly, the decision must be definitive of the rights of the parties, through granting a definite and distinct relief. Lastly, it must have the effect of disposing a substantial portion of the relief claimed in the main proceedings.
Relying on Lubambi v Presbyterian Church of Africa, the court further found that the ruling that a matter is urgent and must procced on that basis, was found not to be an appealable ‘judgment or order’ and such an order is similar to an order giving direction in regard to evidence, or referring a matter to trial. It is therefore not appealable.
In removing the matter from the roll with costs, the court held that the case was concerned with procedure and not the substance of the application.
This case was an appeal in the Supreme Court of Namibia against a judgment that dismissed the application brought by the appellants on an urgent basis and discharging a court order issued on 5 May 2000. This matter concerned provisions of the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act No. 33 of 1992. An Exclusive Prospecting Licence 2101 (EPL 2101) was transferred to the third respondent, involved in diamond mining, on 25 June 1997 but it was alleged that its renewal happened without any notice to the landowner, involved in growing and marketing grapes, and who is one of the appellants in the case. The third respondent intended to excavate four pits of which two were situated within the area demarcated for further grape cultivation.
The appeal focused on three main issues, namely the constitutionality of Part XV of the Minerals Act, the review application regarding the renewal of EPL 2101 in 1998 and the application based on the provisions of section 52 of the same act.
The court concluded that Part XV was enacted in the public interest and for a legitimate object and is a reasonable mechanism whereby similar contesting rights are balanced to ensure equal protection of those rights in terms of the Constitution. It was on this basis that it could not be said that the provisions of Part XV of the Minerals Act are unconstitutional. Accordingly, the appellants’ appeal was dismissed with costs including those for the postponement of the appeal and further argument.
This was an appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgment of the High Court that ordered the appellants to pay security for the costs of the second respondent. The second respondent had opposed an application brought against it by the appellants in the High Court challenging the renewal of an exclusive prospecting licence (EPL 2101) issued by the first respondent in terms of the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act 33 of 1992. The second respondent then filed an application for security in terms of Rule 47(1) as read with Rule 47(3) of the Rules of the High Court, on the basis that the appellants were persons of no or insufficient means to meet an adverse costs order in their main application and further that the appellants were fronts for parties who had been involved in prior litigation with the second respondent.
The Supreme Court relied on various authorities and emphasised that a court of appeal should not interfere with the exercise of the lower court’s discretion. The court saw no basis on which to interfere with the decision of the High Court that the appellants were persons of straw and that they had been put up as a front for others engaged in prior litigation with the applicant. The appeal was dismissed with costs and the second respondent was awarded the wasted costs occasioned by the abandonment by the appellants of the application in terms of Rule 18 of the Rules of the Court.
This Supreme Court case concerned an appeal against the ruling of the High Court that found the appellant guilty primarily on counts of: (1) theft of unpolished diamonds in contravention of section 74 of Act 13 of 1999; alternatively, possession of unpolished diamonds in contravention of section 30(11) of Act 13 of 1999; (2) robbery; (3) malicious damage to property; and 4) escaping before being locked up in contravention of section 51(1) of Act 51 of 1977.
The appellant was primarily charged in the High Court for stealing unpolished diamonds and fleeing arrest. He was convicted on all the counts and sentenced to both a jail term and payment of fine
The appellant felt aggrieved and appealed to the Supreme Court mainly on the ground that the prosecution side failed to establish that the mining company was the lawful owner of the alleged stolen diamond.
The court held that the evidence obtained from the surveillance cameras clearly showed that the unpolished diamond that the appellant was trying to steal was discovered and recovered from him. The court held that he was caught right at the exit of the mining site. So generally, the mining company was the one licensed to exploit and trade the diamond in that area the court a quo was justified to take a judicial notice that the diamonds belonged to the complainant.
The court therefore refrained from disturbing both the conviction and the sentence of the High Court, so the appeal was dismissed.
This was a Supreme Court case that revolved around an agreement between the parties which was suddenly terminated. The agreement demanded that the respondent to import oil resources on behalf of the Government of Namibia. The arrangement proved to be failure as the cost of importing petroleum was high against the market price. Consequently, the first appellant, acting in ministerial capacity decided to end the agreement. The first respondent felt aggrieved and filed a suit in the High Court, asking it to review the decision of the cabinet that terminated the said contract.
As such, the main issue, in this case, was whether the cabinet of the government of the Republic of Namibia acted lawfully when it revoked the mandate of the respondents to import petroleum products. The High Court in determining this issue held that the cabinet had no legally tenable reason(s) to end the contract in question.
However, on appeal, the Supreme Court held that under the Namibian Constitution in article 27(2), the executive power of the Republic of Namibia vests in the president and the cabinet. It further held that under the article, the cabinet has the role of supervising the activities of the government departments. Since the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents are government parastatals the cabinet justifiably exercised its regulatory powers in the best interest of the Namibian people.
The Supreme Court thus overturned the decision of the High Court and accordingly upheld the appeal.
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.
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.
This case concerned parties who had competing interests (one being a luxury tourist lodge and the other one was a copper mine) over the same piece of land. They were undergoing litigation, which included a pending action before another court, in which the first and second respondent were seeking the eviction of the applicant from the property which they sold to the applicant in 2002.
The court considered an application to review and set aside a decision to grant the second respondent an environmental clearance certificate, as well as an interdict restraining them from taking any further action from using the mining rights already granted.
The applicant had earlier stated that they would launch urgent proceedings once they become aware that first and second respondent intend commencing mining activities. However, subsequent communication showed that there were no imminent mining activities. On this basis, the court found that the matter was not inherently urgent, and the application was therefore struck from the roll.
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.
This was an appeal against a decision by the High Court to award the respondents compensation of N22 million, on the ground that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to try the case.
The facts of the case were that as a result of the applicant’s oil exploration activities, crude oil polluted the respondents’ farmlands, fish ponds and streams. The High Court awarded damages against the appellant who then unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appellant contended that ss7(b), 7(3) and 7(5) of the Federal High Court (Amendment) Decree 60 of 1991 ousted the jurisdiction of the High Court on claims pertaining to mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas.
The court considered whether the construction and maintenance of an oil pipeline constituted mining operations and whether the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear such claims pertaining to mining and minerals.
The court found that the construction, operation and maintenance of an oil pipeline by a holder of an oil prospecting licence was an act pertaining to mining operations. As a result the court found that the claims fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court as provided under s230(1)(a) of the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree 107 of 1993. Accordingly, the court set aside the High Court decision on the ground that it was a nullity for want of jurisdiction.