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 mandamus to compel the government, the first respondent, to disclose agreements relating to the purchase of power, among others. The first respondent and Ethiopia entered into negotiations to develop a power plant. The petitioners argued that by agreeing to purchase electricity from Ethiopia, the respondents were acting in a manner that would deprive members of the affected communities of their livelihood, lifestyle and cultural heritage.
The court considered the following: whether it had jurisdiction to intervene and address the issues; whether the rights of the petitioners had been infringed; and what the respondents’ obligations were. The court held that the subject matter of the petition was an agreement between two sovereign states and the violations of rights were transboundary, thus giving the court jurisdiction to hear the matter.
It stated that the right to life, dignity, economic and social rights were indivisible and would have an adverse impact on the petitioners’ livelihood should the power plant be developed. However, without concrete evidence, the court could not find that their rights were violated. In terms of the access to environmental information, the court held that the State was obliged to encourage public participation, which was only possible if the public had all the information. The court found that the respondents ought to have conducted an environmental impact assessment to ensure that the project would not harm the public. Thus, their right to information was infringed. Accordingly, the court granted the order of a mandamus.
The petitioners in this matter contented that since 1998, the fourth and fifth respondents had played excessively loud music at night thus causing the petitioners and other residents sleepless nights. The respondents operated an entertainment spot located near a residential area and learning institutions and whose main entertainment menu was the playing of very loud music. The petitioners alleged that the noise interfered with their peace and quiet enjoyment of their properties and violated their right to a clean and healthy environment.
In order to prove that the noise and vibration levels from the respondent’s restaurant were excessive, the petitioners used self-made instruments that were not approved by a relevant lead agency or any person appointed by the National Environmental Management Authority.
This was against the requirements of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act. Therefore, the petition had to fall, although the learned Judge noted that the petitioners had a noble claim.
The matter dealt with a petition of appeal arising out of a dispute over the destruction of the respondent’s crops by wild animals that entered the respondent’s farm.
The court considered whether s3A(l) of the Wildlife Act, imposed liability on the appellant to compensate for loss or destruction of crop. The court held that s3A(l) imposed a duty on the appellant to protect the crops from destruction by wildlife and compensate for destruction.
The court considered whether there is a common law obligation under the principle in Donoghue v Stevenson 1932 SC (HL) 31 and the rule in Ryland v Fletcher  LR 1Ex 265 on the appellant to compensate for damage or destruction caused by wildlife. The court found that neither were applicable to the present matter based on the facts of the case.
The court considered whether damage caused by migrating wildlife is an act of God. Consideration must be given to the question whether the event was reasonably foreseeable. Migration of wildlife is an annual occurrence thus, foreseeable and so not an act of God.
The court considered whether the government ought to be liable for destruction by wildlife. Factually, the appellant had the duty of control of the wildlife because of s3A of the Wildlife Act and so the court held that liability for the damage fell on the appellant.
Court of Appeal judgment upheld.