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 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.
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.
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.