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 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 matter dealt with an exception raised in the High Court of Namibia by the defendant to the plaintiff’s claim for damages for breach of duty to perform professional work. The plaintiff’s claim was that on account of the defendant’s breach, large quantities of effluent leaked out of the reticulation system beneath its bottling plant and it sustained damage to its property.
The main issue was when the plaintiff’s cause of action arose and if the plaintiff was the owner of the property at the time of the alleged damage. Under this issue the court sought to determine whether the pipes in question were damaged “after or upon installation”.
The defendant had argued that the plaintiff’s claim was not appropriate in delict as the breach was not wrongful for purposes of Aquilian liability. The defendant further claimed that the plaintiff did not have a proprietary interest in the property at the time of the alleged breach.
The court held that the duty of care of a professional could be extended to a person who later becomes the owner of a property as the damage to the pipes remained latent until discovered when the plaintiff acquired the property. The court further held that the Aquilian action forms a basis for such a remedy and that there were considerations of policy and convenience which prima facie allowed for an extension in the circumstances
Accordingly, the defendant’s application was dismissed with costs to the plaintiff.
This was an appeal against the decision of the trial court to award damages to the respondent in absence of expert evidence.
The appeal originated from an action for damages by the respondent. The respondent contended that the appellant’s seismic operations involving setting off explosive charges underground, caused cracks on the cement walls and concrete floors of his building.
The court determined whether the trial court erred in its holding. The court noted that the plaintiff led no expert evidence, while an expert for the defence testified that the explosive charges could not have damaged the respondent’s building. It was further noted that both parties disagreed on the extent of the damage on the respondent’s building.
The court held that expert evidence was necessary to connect the damage with seismic operations. The court also held that the trial court erred in its holding since the plaintiff failed to discharge the onus on him to establish such connection.
The court noted that there was a serious conflict in the description of the building; and relied on the holding in Seismograph Service (Nigeria) Limited v Esiso Akporuovo (1974) 6 SC to hold that a proper evaluation of the evidence required a judicial inspection of the building.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.
The matter concerned an allegation that the accused’s filling stations presented an environmental risk. Having been granted leave, the prosecutor, an environmental advocacy organisation instituted a private prosecution in the Gauteng Division of the High Court against the accused, a fuel supplies company.
The prosecutor claimed that it had complied with all the legislative requirements set out in s33 of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 to enable it to initiate such a prosecution. Counts 1 to 21 of the indictment alleged that the accused had contravened ss 21(1), 22(1) and 29(4) of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1986 (“ECA”) as read together with other supporting environmental legislation. The said s 22(2) provided that authorisation of activities like construction of a service station would only be issued after consideration of reports concerning their impact on the environment. The accused formally pleaded to the charges divided into two sections. The first was a plea under s 106(1)(h) denying the prosecutor’s entitlement to prosecute and the other was a plea of not guilty under s 106(1)(b).
The court held that the claim under s 106(1)(h) on defence of want of title to prosecute failed. The court concluded that the prosecutor's case was straightforward and that the accused breached a duty relating to the protection of the environment. It held that in terms of s22(1) of the ECA the undertaking of certain identified activities was prohibited without written authorisation. The accused was convicted on 17 counts and acquitted on four.
The court considered a petition declaring that the violation of Article 42 of the Constitution of Kenya resulted in a denial of the right to a clean and healthy environment, as well as an injunction to have a waste disposal site relocated.
The court found that the main issues for determination were 1) whether the respondents’ actions violated or threatened the petitioners’ right to a clean and healthy environment, and 2) whether they are deserving of the relief sought.
The court found the right to a clean and healthy environment to be a fundamental right and held that the duty to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations is imposed on the State and every person.
The court considered various provisions of the Constitution, wherein it argued that the first respondent had the mandate to establish and maintain sanitary services for the removal of all kinds of refuse and effluent. It was argued that when dealing with the disposal of waste, no person shall operate a waste disposal site without a licence.
It was clear that the respondent did not have the requisite licence and the court found that the first and third respondents violated the petitioners’ right to a clear and healthy environment, but that the second respondent did not.
The petition partly succeeded. The court granted the declaration but refused to grant the injunction to relocate the waste disposal site.
This was a ruling on a preliminary objection that disputed the jurisdiction of the court. The respondents argued that its discretionary powers were not amenable to judicial review.
This objection was raised in the course of a review of a decision of the respondent to cancel the applicants’ licences that gave them a right to carry out sludge and waste disposal at the port of Mombasa. The applicants sought an order to quash the respondent’s decision and a further order to prohibit the respondent from implementing and enforcing the purported cancellation of the licenses.
Having considered the competing arguments for and against the preliminary objection, the court found that the objection was challenging the jurisdiction of the court. The respondents argued that its discretionary powers were not amenable to judicial review. The court held in the contrary that the decision was administrative and therefore could be the subject of a judicial review. It was further held that the applicants were not barred from coming to that court for assistance when they had grievances with administrative matters.
The court found that the preliminary objection had no merit and dismissed the application with costs to the applicant.
The court considered an appeal, whereby the plaintiff was claiming pecuniary damages incurred for cleaning up an oil leak into the harbour, for which the defendant was allegedly responsible.
The defence pleaded that the suit was misconceived and that the alleged loss and damage were not recoverable in law. Further, that the plaintiff disclosed no cause of action and that the case ought to be dismissed. The plaintiff relied on two causes of action, the first in negligence and the second, in terms of the strict liability rule.
The high court held that the only damage proved to have been caused by the oil leak was to the sea water surrounding the harbour, and that the plaintiff did not own that water. Thus, the plaintiff had not suffered any damage to its property and further that in bringing oil to its land in the port area, the defendant was not making a non-natural use of the land.
On appeal, the court held that the plaintiff suffered no actual damage to any of its property as water was not the property of the plaintiff, and pecuniary loss arising out of purely precautionary measures taken to clean up pollution, which might cause damage to property, is not recoverable at common law. It held that the storage of oil on land by a person licensed to generate electricity there, the oil being essential for the production of electricity, did not amount to a non-natural user of the land.
The tribunal considered an appeal against the approval and issuance of a license for the construction of human waste sewage ponds in a residential area. The appellants argued the following: that they, had not been consulted; that the project would cause significant environmental damage; that the project lacked adequate mitigation measures; and that the respondents did not follow the relevant statutory provisions. The appellants sought cancellation of the license; an order to stop construction of the project; restitution, compensation as well as a guarantee of non- repetition; and environmental restoration. The respondents insisted that they had satisfied the relevant provisions and urged the tribunal to dismiss the appeal with costs.
The main issue for the tribunal’s consideration was whether there was effective public participation. It found that the respondents fell short of the requirement to issue two public notices. The tribunal also found that the respondents failed to demonstrate that they held three public meetings and that they made radio-announcements. It concluded therefor that public participation was not carried out effectively.
The tribunal went on to consider whether the project adhered to the Environment Management and Coordination (Water Quality) Regulations 2006; the Environment Management and Coordination (Wetlands, River Banks, Lake Shores and Sea Shore Management) Regulations 2009; and the Environmental Management and Co-Ordination (Air Quality) Regulations 2014. It found that the respondents failed to adhere to any of these. Accordingly, the tribunal upheld the appeal.
This was an appeal against the decision of the lower court ’s offer of E110 000.00 as compensation.
The respondent constructed a sewage pipeline across the property belonging to the appellant. In terms of s 5 of the Water Services Corporation Act of1992, the respondent was obliged to compensate the appellant for the damage sustained on the property. For the damage done to the property the appellant sued the respondent for the payment of E350 000.00, interest and costs of suit.
The issue was whether the appellant was entitled to the sum of E350 000.00 based on the valuation report of an expert as opposed to the sum of value of the property in the sum of E110 000.00.
The court found that while the appellant alleged that the property was rendered of no value and therefore entitled to the sum of E350 000.00 being the market value of the said property, the expert evidence of one witness, stated that the entire property was not rendered valueless by the construction of the sewage pipe, as a percentage of it was still usable. Since the appellant failed to prove what the sum of E350 000.00 claimed represented, the court had no choice than to accept the offer of E110 000.00 from the respondents.
The view of the judge of the Supreme Court was that the reasoning of the learned judge of the lower court was undisputable. Subsequently the judges of the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal with costs.
The plaintiff’s claim against the defendant in this case was that the defendant’s negligent and faulty roofing resulted in a flood that consequently damaged the plaintiff’s restaurant. The parties’ properties were located on a steep hill and shared a boundary. It was alleged that, on account of the defendant’s failure maintain a proper gutter, water was discharged from its roof onto the plaintiff’s property resulting in a flood. The defendant’s only defense was that there was no proof that the water that flowed towards the plaintiff’s restaurant came from the defendant’s restaurant.
The court held that since the onus of proof was on a balance of probability, the plaintiff’s case was clear. The evidence showed that a significant amount of water was discharged from the defendant’s roof due to its ill-fitted gutter towards the plaintiff’s house, which would have otherwise been channeled into a catch pit. The court reasoned that the presumption that the defendant’s poorly fixed gutter led to the flood was proved when soon after the defendant repaired its gutters the floods did not reoccur despite heavy rainfalls in following seasons. The court thus concluded that the defendant’s poorly fitted roofing contributed to the floods. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s claim succeeded.