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
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.
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 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.
In the High Court, an appellant was applying for bail pending his appeal against both conviction and sentence by the trial court, having been convicted of contravening s368(2) as read with s368(4) of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:01] that is, prospecting for gold without a licence. He had been sentenced to two years, being the mandatory minimum penalty for that offence after the magistrate failed to find any special circumstances.
The issue before the court was to exercise its discretion on whether to grant bail to the appellant. The court held that in exercising the discretion on whether or not to grant bail pending appeal, the court must be guided by the prospects of success on appeal and whether there is risk that the applicant would abscond. The judge held that from the court record there was a problem with the rebuttal of the applicant’s defence in the trial court. The applicant had argued that he was carrying a pot and a lid when the police pounced, but state witnesses alleged that he carried a shovel.
The judge was satisfied that the applicant had discharged the responsibility upon him and that the court should indeed exercise its discretion in the applicant’s favour. Accordingly, the judge granted the application on condition that he deposited a sum of $100.00 with the Clerk of Court, he resided at a particular village and to report at a police station twice a week on Mondays and Fridays between 6.00 am and 6.00 pm.
In this case, the High Court considered a murder charge and whether the defence of private defence and/or the defence of property was sufficient to warrant an acquittal.
The accused was employed as a security guard by a private security company. While on duty he shot and killed an illegal diamond panner. Against the murder charge, the accused raised the defence of private defence and the defence of property. The facts were not disputed that the accused and his colleague were attacked by a mob of illegal panners who threatened to kill them. The accused fired a warning shot but the mob persisted until he fired the deadly shot which dispersed the mob.
The court held that the accused was lawfully employed to protect the employer’s assets from theft and entitled by law to protect himself. The court found that in this case a warning shot had been given and the life of the accused was in danger. The court held further that the action in self-defence was not disproportionate or unreasonable. Accordingly, the court found the accused not guilty and he was acquitted.