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 before the High Court where the appellant a chief, had been charged before the subordinate court for 35 counts of theft by false pretences. The appellant falsely claimed that he was a representative of the Principal Chief and had been authorised by him to impose and receive fines of cash and small stock from persons who had failed to remove their animals from certain reserved grazing area.
The question was whether the appellant contravened Legal Notice Number 39 of 1980 namely, Range Management and Grazing Control Regulations published in Gazette Number 36 of 10 October 1980 (Supplement Number 4). The Principal Chief of the area gave evidence and denied that he ever authorised the appellant to act, as he did, and the court concluded that the appellant lied. The judge confirmed the conviction on 18 counts but set aside the sentences imposed by the learned magistrate as they were considered lenient. Accordingly, on 18 counts the appellant was sentenced to one-year imprisonment, each to run concurrently, the whole of which was suspended for a period of two years on condition that during the period of the said suspension he is not convicted of an offence involving dishonesty. The appellant was sentenced on two counts to a period of two years imprisonment on each count. Half the sentence was suspended for a period of two years on condition that during the period of the said suspension he was not convicted of an offence involving dishonesty.
The matter dealt with an appeal in which the respondent had commenced proceedings in the Local Court against the appellant and his mother for trespassing in a forest. The appellant denied the trespass and claimed that the forest had belonged to his father and that he was the heir. The court delivered a very confusing judgement which was hard to comprehend and so the respondent sought an appeal that would see the Magistrate’s Court revisit the matter.
The magistrate reviewed and set aside the matter issuing a new judgement. The principal question was if the magistrate had the power to review the matter from the local court.
Section 26 of the Central and Local Courts Proclamation granted magistrates the power to review matters but that such a magistrate must not constitute himself a court of appeal and arbitrarily interfere with the working of the lower court. He was empowered to ensure that there were no irregularities on the face of the proceedings or prejudice or bias in a decision given by the President of a Local or Central Court only.
The court in this matter therefore, found that the magistrate, by setting aside the decision of the local court and delivering an alternative judgment was exercising an appellate function which was beyond its authority. The court found that it could not consider issues of law in the present matter and referred the matter back to the local court for review as should have been done by the magistrate.
This was an appeal in the Court of Appeal against a judgment of the High Court which had dismissed an appeal to it against a judgment of the Judicial Commissioner’s Court, the effect of which was to uphold a decision of a local court. The issue concerned the removal of wood from a plantation by the appellant, which the respondent contended belonged to the community of which he was a headman. The appellant’s reasoning that the plantation was situated in his grandfather’s field was rejected by the court which ordered the appellant to desist from using the plantation and never to use it. The appellant was not satisfied with the ruling, so he appealed unsuccessfully, first to the Central Court, then to the Judicial Commissioner’s Court and finally to the High Court.
The issue for the court’s consideration was whether the local court had the jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The court observed that the matter concerned provisions of the Chieftainship Act 22 of 1968 pursuant to which the judge held that the finding by the Office of the Chief did not preclude the appellant from seeking recourse in the Local Court. The court upheld the High Court judge’s view that the dispute between the parties was not a dispute involving claims to; title, exemption from title, or overriding title. Therefore, the submission that the dispute must be dealt with in the Land Court or the District Land Court was not upheld. The appeal was dismissed with costs.
This was an action for damages for assault and battery that led to the removal of one of the plaintiff’s eye; following a beating by the defendant’s guards when the plaintiff was caught stealing on the defendant’s property. The plaintiff also prayed for costs of the action.
It was common cause that the plaintiff was cutting down trees for firewood without permission at the defendant’s estate; and that the plaintiff ran away from the defendant’s agents. The plaintiff averred that one of the defendant’s agents appeared in front of him and threw his baton stick at him, hitting and injuring his eye. The defendant denied the plaintiff’s version of facts and averred that the plaintiff stumbled and fell onto his shovel, thereby injuring himself.
The court, therefore, had to determine whether the plaintiff was entitled to the damages sought.
The court held that in a civil case like this one, the burden was on the plaintiff to prove his case on balance of probabilities. The plaintiff argued that he satisfied this requirement, as the defendant’s witnesses contradicted themselves. The court, however, noted that all of the defendant’s witnesses concurred that they were not carrying baton sticks on the material day and that the plaintiff did not challenge this.
Consequently, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish that the injuries he sustained were caused by the defendant’s agents. The plaintiff’s action, therefore, failed.
This was an action for damages for nuisance and trespass against the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that he was the owner of a property on which the defendant erected a 55m antenna in a brick enclosure along with an unsilenced diesel generator which produced noise. He further claimed that the defendant erected a girder with red flashing lights and positioned two 24-hour security guards at the enclosure. The defendant contended that the property was part of a forest reserve for which it had obtained a licence from the Department of Forestry.
The court considered whether or not the defendant was liable in trespass and nuisance and whether or not the plaintiff was entitled to the damages claimed.
The court found that the plaintiff held a 99-year lease over his property and that the licence granted to the defendant by the Department of Forestry did not specify the exact site for the location of the antenna. It was therefore held that the licence did not justify the trespass. The court concluded that the defendant was liable for trespass on the plaintiff’s land.
In determining the issue on nuisance, the court noted that the plaintiff did not plead the particulars of the alleged nuisance by the defendant and that he did not adduce evidence to prove the allegation of the nuisance. As such, the claim for nuisance was dismissed.
Accordingly, the court awarded the plaintiff damages for trespass.
The court considered a petition to have a decision handed down by the Ministry of Devolution and Planning quashed and declared unconstitutional.
The petitioners were Embobut Forest dwellers which shared a common border with five other clans. The petitioners alleged that they were genuine evictees and internally displaced persons who were aggrieved, ignored and not compensated when the respondents harmonized their registers.
The petitioners argued that their constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment had been infringed and that they had not been appropriately compensated. They alleged that they ought to have been compensated like any other squatters and that they had been discriminated against.
The court found that the arguments put forward by the petitioners were non-justiciable. Justiciability refers to the types of matters the court can adjudicate on. In this instance, the court found that the harmonization of the register of the petitioners was a political question, and not a legal one.
The court found that the purpose of compensating those who were in illegal occupation of the forest was to give effect to their right to property. However, the court found that the petitioners did not demonstrate that they were part of those who illegally occupied the land, and thus could not be compensated. Further, the court found that the petitioners did not demonstrate that any of the constitutional provisions had been violated, thus their petition was without substance.
The court considered an application for judicial review on the ground that the decision of a magistrate to grant an injunction was ultra vires (i.e beyond the powers). The applicant contended that the magistrate lacked jurisdiction to make such an order and as such the order was a nullity. The respondent argued that the application was misconceived; that it had jurisdiction and that the applicant had failed to lodge an appeal which meant that the remedy of judicial review was not available to it.
The court considered whether the respondent had the jurisdiction to consider the matters before it. The court also considered whether the applicant exhausted other equally convenient, beneficial and effective alternative remedies which were available under the law.
The court found that although the application was brought in terms of the Forests Act, such dispute ought to have been brought before the National Environment Tribunal.
The court found that the learned magistrate acted without jurisdiction and in excess of statutory authority, contrary to Section 63(2) of the Forests Act to receive, entertain, hear and otherwise deal with the said case as the proper forum to hear and determine the interested party’s claim, would have been the National Environment Tribunal. On this basis, the decision issued was ultra vires and thus a nullity ab initio. Accordingly, the court set aside the decision of the magistrate.
This was a judicial review on the administrative decision of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (“DAFF”) to refuse a permit for the removal of 10 protected trees (white Milkwood trees) to build a new residence.
The court considered whether it was proper for the applicant to seek an order to compel the DAFF to make a decision it had not taken during a review. The court applied the rule that requires the court to exercise its judicial discretion to set aside an administrative decision only when considering the consequences of a decision that was already taken.
The court also considered whether the decision was made by an authorised person. The court applied the provisions of s15 of the Natural Forest Act which prohibits the disturbance (removal) of protected trees without a license or exemption from the minister. It also considered s7 of the that allowed the minister to delegate exercise of his powers. The court found that the decision was made by a forester who was not authorised to make the decision. The court found that alone to be decisive of the matter and set aside the decision by the DAFF.
The court also made an order as to costs to be paid on a joint and several bases by the respondents.
This was an application for judicial review wherein the applicants sought orders to quash the respondents’ decision to place an advertisement in the newspapers calling for applications for concessions in state forests, prohibition orders to prevent the respondent from actualizing any matters concerning the advertisement. They also sought an order of mandamus to compel the respondent to comply with constitutional provisions on the protection of forests.
The respondent argued that they had taken the action in accordance with s 37(2) of the Forest Act.
The court determined whether the respondent had complied with the law in making the decision.
The court interpreted s 37(2) and established that before the board takes a decision to place an advertisement for concessions, it must be satisfied that the forests will be efficiently managed through such concession or license and for the board to be satisfied, factors such as public views and opinion, should be taken into account before the decision is made.
The court found that the respondent had not made provision for public participation, yet it was constitutionally bound to do so and thus failed to comply with the law.
Accordingly, the court granted the orders sought by the applicants.
This was an application for a temporary injunction to restrain the defendant from cutting down trees, felling logs or dealing in whatever manner with the plaintiff’s land.
The plaintiff contended that the respondent had committed trespass and malicious damage to the property on his land. On the other hand, the defendant argued that it was not the registered owner of the land but had entered into an agreement with the government to harvest forest produce in government forests in exchange for royalties.
The court found that the plaintiff was the registered owner of the land and that the defendant lacked the capacity to question the validity of the plaintiff’s ownership.
It was further held that the plaintiff had established the requirements for an injunction. The plaintiff established a prima facie case with a likelihood of success against the defendant. Further, that if the relief was not granted the plaintiff would suffer irreparable loss as all the trees on his land would be cut down.
Accordingly, the application succeeded with costs to the respondents. The court issued the injunction and directed the applicant to mark out the boundaries of his land so that the respondent would excluded from its operations.
This was an application for a temporary injunction to restrain the respondent from cutting down trees, felling logs and trees remaining into or dealing in whatever manner with the applicant’s parcel of land.
The matter before the court was whether the applicant had established a prima facie case with a probability of success to entitle him to an injunction.
The court held that the definition of land includes trees which may be growing on the land and the respondent did not have the capacity to question the manner in which the applicant acquired his title deed as the validity of the title deed was not in issue.
The court held that the applicant had established a prima facie case with a likelihood of success as against the respondent and agreed with the applicant that unless the orders sought were granted the applicant would suffer irreparable loss as all the tree on his land would be cut down and ferried away by the respondent. The applicant had therefore satisfied the tests for grant of temporary injunctions. The court also held that the balance of convenience tilted in favour of the applicant.
The court granted the orders sought by the applicant and directed him to mark out the boundaries of his land if the same were not clear so that the respondent may exclude it from its operations. The court also awarded costs of the application to the applicant.
This was a review against the respondent’s decisions to set apart land on Funzi Island and grant registration titles to Pati Limited. The applicant prayed for prohibition and certiorari orders since the respondent made the decisions in excess of its jurisdiction and power.
The applicant argued that the land in dispute was forest land, and that no allotment could have legally taken place on the land unless there was a declaration that it had ceased to be forest land. The court found that when the proceedings commenced, it was assumed that the land was trust land, and despite argument, the applicant failed to adduce enough evidence to prove that the land was forest land. The land was thus declared to be trust land.
Secondly on the applicant’s disputed locus standi, the court found that the applicant’s properties were separated by about 200 metres from the disputed property. Further, the court found that even if the land was forest land, only the authorities in the Ministry in charge of the forest lands had the capacity to defend it. Consequently, it was held that the applicants lacked the requisite locus standi.
Finally, the court found that the respondent complied with the requirements in the Trust Act and dismissed the orders prayed for.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The matter dealt with an application to release the applicant’s motor vehicle which was being detained by the Kenya Forest Service pursuant to an order of forfeiture.
The court held that the right to forfeit private property must be subject to both the constitution and the enabling statute.
The court held that the key elements in an application by the state seeking forfeiture in a criminal proceeding are that:
(a) The state must establish the requisite nexus between the property and the offence;
(b) The courts determination may be based on evidence already on record including any plea and or adduced evidence accepted by the court as relevant;
(c) If the court seeks to forfeit a specific property, a notice of the order must be sent to any person who reasonably might appear to be a potential claimant with standing to contest the forfeiture;
(d) This is more so when in practical terms the seized property would be in the hand of an agent, employee, or servant of the person with proprietary interest or right;
(e) Furthermore, as a form of punishment the principle of proportionality ought to apply.
The court held that, a presumptive innocent person whose property is a subject of criminal proceedings should not lose the property without an opportunity to be heard. In the present case, the order on forfeiture was disproportionate to the nature and gravity of the offence and there was a failure to serve notice. Accordingly, the order on forfeiture was quashed.
This matter originated from an application where the respondents were required to show cause why a final interdict should not be issued against them, to prohibit them from damaging the applicant's wattle forest and timber at the old Nkoyoyo quarry site.
In a series of events, the applicant requested for postponement of the hearing and later filed a notice of withdrawal and prayed for costs. The respondents prayed that the matter be dismissed with costs.
The court considered whether the withdrawal was proper in terms of rule 41 (1)(a) of the High Court Rules that required withdrawal by consent of the parties or leave of the court. The court found the withdrawal to be invalid since the applicant was not compliant with the rules.
The court considered whether the withdrawal application had any merit. The court held that the respondent had proved that the applicant had no right in the land, as per s 94 of the constitution, s 3 of the Safe Guarding of Swazi Areas Act of 1910 and s 2 of the Contract by Swazi Chief Act of 1924.
Consequently, the applicant failed to prove the requirements for an interim interdict and court found him to be in abuse of court process by seeking commercial advantage through the court.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed, and the applicant was ordered to pay punitive damages for abusing court process.
This case interpreted the concept of urgency and interim relief pending the outcome of litigation in issues concerning an exclusive license to harvest and process wild mushrooms, according to the 1973 Wild Mushroom Control Order.
The respondents appeared in court pursuant to a rule nisi (an order to show cause) why they should not be interdicted from stopping the applicant from taking and processing wild mushrooms from Usutu Forest.
The court considered whether the application should be dismissed since the applicants had procured the urgency and interdict by failing to disclose material facts. The court found that there was no immediate urgency since the companies had been in discussion for a long time. It also found that the respondents were not given sufficient time to respond to the application.
The court interpreted the provisions of s. 4(1) of the order and held that the applicant’s license did not authorize intrusion into the respondent’s land without consent. Consequently, the applicants’ submissions were unsound and they had abused court’s processes.
The court held that the effect of an interim interdict was not to determine eventual rights of the parties. It found that the interdict placed an obligation on the respondents that was contrary to its rights and the respondent was entitled to costs thereof.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.