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 a petition stop the development of flats within a residential area. The property was initially planned as a single dwelling unit but the developer applied for change of user to multiple dwelling units which was approved. The petitioners claimed that the change of user was irregularly granted and claimed that approval from the National Environmental Management Agency was improper because the county government approved the change of user despite multiple objections from the public.
The petitioners sought an order declaring that the decision of the first respondent to change the user was unconstitutional and null and void. Further, that the approval of the re-development amounted to a dereliction of duties.
The court considered 1) whether a proper Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted, 2) whether the process of planning approval was lawfully adhered to and, 3) whether there was a violation of the petitioners' constitutional rights.
It held that the NEMA processes were casually done as objections to the project, were not given a hearing and were not considered before the decision to allow the project was made.
Further, it held that there was no consultation with interested parties as was required by the law. This meant that no proper EIA was carried out and therefore the process of planning approval was legally flawed.
As a result of this, the court held that claims for violations of the right to a clean and healthy environment were breached or at the very least, under threat.
The applicant, sought to review and set aside the 5th respondent’s decision on 3 grounds 1) it failed to adhere to the audi alteram partem principle, 2) the decision was unreasonable, and 3) there was a perception of bias.
The applicant was formed to manage the Long Beach development on behalf of individual members, which gave them the powers to make applications for environmental authorizations.
The audi alteram partem principle entitles affected parties to make representations. The applicant contended that it was denied this opportunity when the 5th respondent made its decision.
The court found that there is a distinction between reasons advanced in support of a decision and concerns that may relate to matters which are not properly addressed. Held, that an uncertainty suggests a lack of clarity to enable the decision maker to apply his mind. However, if an uncertainty is created, the decision maker should afford the applicant an opportunity to answer, and settle those concerns. The court found that the fifth respondent’s actions, in not allowing the applicant to respond, denied it of its right curtail uncertainties and failed to adhere to the audi alteram partem principle.
On the basis of the applicant’s additional grounds, it was found that the arguments for unreasonableness and bias were not sustainable.
The court set aside the 5th respondent’s decision and referred the matter back, to allow the applicant to respond to any uncertainties.
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.
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.
The court considered an appeal against the decision of the court below, dismissing an application for judicial review. The issue for consideration was whether the doctrine of res judicata applied to judicial review.
Res judicata refers to a matter which has been heard by a competent court and cannot be pursued further by the same parties.
The 16th respondent alleged that the Minister had used the information from them to grant permits to the parties named as interested parties, in respect of the concerned areas and that such licenses should be revoked. Further that the interested parties cease operations in the areas immediately.
The court below dismissed this, prompting a review by the 16th respondent, who sought an order “compelling the respondents to vacate and stay out of the disputed areas. This was based on the interested parties trespassing on the disputed land.
The interested parties argued that the court could not entertain the matter because of the principle of res judicata. However, the court below held that res judicata did not apply to reviews.
The court in this instance held that the basis upon which the 16th respondent instituted the previous judicial review application was essentially the same basis upon which the subsequent judicial review application was based and was thus res judicata. Further, that the subsequent judicial review application was not only barred by the doctrine of res judicata, but was also an abuse of court processes
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.
The court considered a summons to strike out a notice of appeal. The respondent, as applicant in this case, applied to the court for an order that the notice of appeal be struck out with costs on the grounds that it was obviously frivolous, vexation and an abuse of process. The respondent (applicant), contended that the appeal was not competent as it purported to bring up matters that were not raised in the court below for the assessment hearing.
The court considered whether the appeal was admissible or whether it constituted an abuse of process and should be struck out. It was held that the respondent (applicant) needed to satisfy the court that the grounds of appeal were obviously frivolous, vexation and an abuse of process.
The court found that the appellant was not challenging the judgement or liability, but merely the quantum of damages arrived at following the assessment of damages. This, the court held, could not be interpreted as an attempt to re-litigate the matter, as the respondent (applicant) alleged. The court, therefore, concluded that it could not be said with any degree of certainty that the appeal was obviously frivolous, vexation and an abuse of process.
Accordingly, the application failed and each party was ordered to bear its own costs.
The court considered an application for the continuation of an interlocutory injunction which was granted to restrain the defendants from entering, cultivating, occupying or developing on the plaintiff’s land. The plaintiff’s father gave him customary land, which he cleared himself and the land was later subdivided. The first defendant alleged that he held a right to the land on account of the growing population of the family.
The court held that an interlocutory injunction is a temporary and exceptional remedy which was available before the rights of the parties had been finally determined. The first issue for the court to determine was whether there was a triable issue. It found that there were pertinent questions regarding the land that had to be determined at trial. The court then considered the issue of compensability, that is, the extent to which damages could be an adequate remedy. The court found that every piece of land had its own unique value and damages would be an inadequate remedy and as the value was difficult to quantify.
The court found that if the interlocutory injunction was not extended the plaintiff would suffer irreparable harm and justice demanded that the land remain intact until the action was determined. Accordingly, the application succeeded.
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.