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 case concerned an appeal to the High Court by the appellant who subsequently made no further effort to prosecute his appeal. However, the judge was not prepared to leave the matter in that unsatisfactory state and decided to have the appellant and the second accused before the lower court, appear before the court and show cause as to why their sentences should not be increased. The two had been charged with selling uncut diamonds in contravention of s 6 (1)(b) of the Precious Stones Order 1970 and subsequently convicted.
The law applied was s 6(4) of the Precious Stones Order which specified the maximum limit of fine and imprisonment for offenders in this case, for the practice of dealing in uncut diamonds without authority. The judge decided that in his case that justice sternly demanded that illegal schemes to get rich quickly could not be tolerated by the courts. The appellant’s fine was increased in addition to a sentence of 6 months' imprisonment in default of payment.
The court exercised its entitlement to revisional powers to correct the inadequate sentence imposed upon the other offender in the lower court. The judge ordered that in addition to the fine that he had paid, and month spent in prison, the original sentence to imprisonment for twelve months be wholly suspended for three years on the condition that he was not convicted of any offence under the same law.
The plaintiff instituted an action in the High Court for the eviction of the defendants from a piece of land. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were carrying on mining operations at the site without holding a mining lease or a mining licence issued in terms of the Mining Rights Act 43 of 1967, hence acting illegally.
It was common cause that the defendants had not been granted a mining lease or a mining licence by the Mining Board. The defendants argued that the plaintiff did not have locus standi to bring an action of eviction because it did not own the land and that there was a likelihood that granite stone was not a base mineral that fell within the definition in the act.
The judge’s view was that granite stone fell within the definition of a base mineral and the defendants were therefore undertaking a mining operation requiring a lease or licence under the act. The court further held that the defendants held a bogus land grant from the chief. It also found that under s 2 of the Mineral Rights Act the right to minerals in any land were vested in the "Basotho Nation". The judge concluded that the case was not one between landlord and tenant but between landlord (or landowner) and squatter in a situation governed by a unique and unusual land law. Accordingly, a summary judgment was entered for the plaintiff as prayed.
The court considered an appeal against a decision of the High Court dismissing an application for a remedy over a land dispute on the grounds that there were disputes of fact that could not be ascertained, which the appellants should have foreseen.
The first, second and third appellants were members of the fourth appellant, a company of Swazi indigenous people, formed to co-ordinate the ploughing of sugar cane by indigenous Swazis. The first and second respondent were adult Swazis employed by a wildlife business undertaking.
The court considered 1) whether the application should have been dismissed due to a failure by the applicants to join parties who had a substantial interest in the matter, and 2) whether the applicants succeeded in establishing that they were in peaceful and undisturbed possession of the land when they were evicted.
The court found that the appellants did not attempt to join, as respondents, two parties, including a trust controlling the wildlife business undertaking, which had a direct interest in the disputed land. The appellants argued that a trust is not a juristic person, but the court found that legal proceedings can be brought by and against a trust. It was also established that before they moved onto the land the appellants had already been removed from that land and were aware that their right to occupy the land was disputed. Based on the court’s findings and failure to comply with the rules in the filing of heads of argument, the appeal was dismissed[kb1].
This High Court case involved an accused that was charged with contravening section 6(1) (a) (i) and section 33 (2)(i) read with (ii) of the Precious Stones Order of 1970 (“order”). The charges were that the accused was in possession of three rough and uncut diamonds without being duly licenced to deal in rough and uncut diamonds. The accused pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. However, the High Court was tasked to review the sentence on the ground that the accused was wrongfully charged. The record showed that the accused was merely found possessing the diamond unlawfully and not selling the diamond.
Thus, the issue for review was whether the accused was correctly charged under section 6(1)(a)(i) and section 33(2)(i) read with (ii) of the order.
The High Court accepted that the accused was wrongfully charged under section 6(1)(a)(i) and section 33 (2)(i) read with (ii) of the order, after reviewing the submissions. The court held that the offence he committed was limited to possession of the diamond unlawfully. To the alternative, the court stated that the accused ought to have been charged under section 6(1)(c) of the order which deals with unlawful possession of the diamond. Finally, the court allowed the amendment of the charge and confirmed the three months’ sentence stating that the punishment was proportionate to either of the offences.
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.
This was an appeal to the High Court involving an appellant who was co-charged for contravening Section 6(1)(a)(i) read with (4) of Precious Stones Order of 1970 (“order”) as well as theft. In the case, the appellant allegedly bought diamonds with money that he had stolen from the bank account of his employer. The Magistrate Court acquitted the appellant and the co-accused of the charge of contravening the order. However, the appellant was convicted and sentenced for theft. The appellant’s defence was that he withdrew the money for office use, but that it was then stolen from his wardrobe by an unknown person.
On appeal, the first issue on trial was whether the magistrate erred in finding that the explanation given by the appellant was far from being reasonably accurate. The second was whether there was enough evidence to establish the appellant’s guilt.
The High Court held that the prosecution showed that the appellant withdrew the amount of money alleged to have been stolen from the bank. It found that the conviction by the lower court was well based on (1) the remainder of the money that was unearthed from the appellant’s house; (2) the uncut diamond that was recovered from the appellant; (3) further evidence. The Magistrate Court’s decision was therefore upheld and the appeal dismissed.
In this case, the respondent claimed two houses, one yard, three fields, and three forests as his property; and alleged that the appellant was using the property unlawfully. A first judgement was rendered in favour of the respondent. The appellant then appealed the judgement. After the appeal was dismissed, the appellant continued to be adamant against the court's decision and the respondent, therefore, applied for interdict orders seeking to restrain the appellant from entering the disputed property. The interdict was granted and was then appealed by the appellant. This case concerned the appeal against the judgment of the resident magistrate confirming the interdict granted against the appellant.
The issues for determination were (1) whether the application for an interdict was the proper remedy in the circumstance and (2) whether the summons was properly served to the defendant.
The High Court held that for it to issue an interdict it must be satisfied that (1) a clear right existed; (2) an injury was actually committed or reasonably apprehended; (3) no other satisfactory remedy was available to the applicant. The High Court held that damages to the property involved would be irreversible and that the matter satisfied the requirements for an interdict.
The High Court found that the appellant chose to ignore the summons. Moreover, even if he was not duly served with the summons, he was supposed to apply the default judgement to be set aside and not to ignore it.
The appeal was dismissed with cost.
This High Court case concerned an appellant that had been convicted for contravening section 87(1) of the Land Act of 1979. The charge was that the accused (now appellant) did unlawfully and intentionally occupy land without proper authority. The appellant held the land and had agricultural license. When the land was declared urban land, the appellant continued to farm it, hence the accusation.
The main issue to be determined on appeal was whether the appellant was occupying the land in contravention of criminal code after the land was declared urban land.
The High Court held that the appellant did not contravene any
criminal code since the commissioner for land did not take steps required in law to nullify the pre-existing licenses. In that view, since the license held by the appellant was still intact even after declaring the land urban, the appellant was lawfully occupying the land.
The appeal was, therefore, upheld.
The court considered an application for the ejectment of the respondent from the applicant’s premises.
The respondent was a sublease on property leased by the applicant. The area was subsequently declared a development in terms of the Land Act of 1979. The respondent had earlier applied for the setting aside of the declaration, which application was unsuccessful.
The court distinguished several cases that supported the view that in ejectment matters, courts should not quickly order the ejectment of a respondent who is carrying out business on the land.
The court found that the declaration of the area into a development, and the subsequent publication in the government gazette all supported the view that development had to continue.
The court further balanced the costs incurred by the applicants, the benefits of the development to the public and the fact that the applicant offered the respondents space in the completed development to support that the respondent had to vacate the premises.
The court ordered the respondent to vacate and to pay the costs of the application.
The court considered an application declaring the suspension and non-renewal of the licence by the respondent, null and void. The applicant was further seeking an order compelling the respondent to pay damages incurred as a result of the suspension.
The court was faced with the question of how a court must approach cases brought through motion proceedings, which require oral evidence to be heard..
The court pointed out that while the suspension and non-renewal of the licence could be decided on motion proceedings, the application for damages required oral evidence.
The court found that damages require proof and therefore cannot be decided on motion proceedings.
The court came to decision that the matter be referred to trial and all affidavits and depositions which formed part of the application be used as pleadings in the action.
The court postponed the issue of costs, until the trial.
The court considered an appeal of the judgment handed down in the lower court, granting an interim interdict.
The respondents in the matter argued that a court of appeal should not interfere with the discretion of the lower court, unless compelling reasons exist to do so.
The requirements for an interim interdict are that the applicant must prove 1) a prima facie right. 2) a well-grounded apprehension of irreparable harm occurring 3) a balance of convenience must favour the granting of the interim relief and 4) it must be the only satisfactory relief available.
The court found that despite the requirements, a court has a discretion on whether to grant such a relief. Despite the existence of the requirements, the court held that there are no comprehensive guidelines that can be laid down to prevent a court from using the discretion.
The court after weighing up the delay in the court a quo and the public interest in the project, came to the conclusion that the appropriate relief was one which protected the right of the respondents to claim relief through damages.
The court restrained the appellants from interfering or obstructing any agents, employee or experts employed by the respondents from carrying out tests or investigations for the purposes of establishing and estimating the damages.
The court granted the interim prohibitory interdict.
The court considered an appeal against the judgment of the lower the court in in that the lower court erred in law by handing down the judgment in favour of the respondents.
The appellants argued that 1) the court had failed to acknowledge estoppel as part of the law of Lesotho. 2) that the learned judge erred in not finding that the respondent was precluded from seeking the relief by virtue of estoppel and 3) that the court had no power to make the order of costs.
On the question of whether the court was empowered to make a costs order, since it was not legislatively empowered to do so, the court held that despite the express powers in statute, the court had the capacity to make such order for reasons to do with justice.
On the withdrawal of the appeal, the court held that any party which wishes to withdraw an appeal must do so unequivocally. A litigant cannot unilaterally impose conditions on a case withdrawal to which an opponent and the court are enjoined.
The appeal was struck off the roll with costs.
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to recognise the respondent as the rightful heir to real property. The matter had commenced in the local court, the contention between the parties being, who the rightful heir to the property was.
The issue for the court’s determination was whether it could entertain the appeal. It relied on s 17 of the Court of Appeal Act 1978 and the decision in Mahabanka Mohale v ’Makholu Leuta Mahao C of A (CIV) No. 22 of 2004. The court observed that the appellant filed a notice of motion for leave to appeal almost fourteen months after the High Court judgement had been passed and found that the appeal was out of time.
The Court stated further that although it had discretion to allow a breach of rules in a fitting case, the appellant had failed to file an application for condonation with supporting affidavits to enable the court to make a determination on whether to exercise its discretion.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appellant’s application for leave to appeal and struck the appeal off the roll.
The court determined the test for applying its discretion to allow an application for an order for the production of documents during the course of proceedings as per rule 34(14) of the High Court Rules of 1980.
The applicants had previously requested for the production of some documents relating to the grant of mining leases before the trial started but made no attempt to enforce the discovery notice a year later into the proceedings. Thereafter, the applicants made a counter application for production of further documents but never pursued it. The reason for this was the belief that the fifth respondent was no longer represented in the proceedings. The applicants then launched this application against the fifth respondent.
The court made a consideration of the element of delay, insofar as it prejudiced the opposite party by preventing them to bring back their own witnesses and the materiality of the evidence in so far as it was practically conclusive.
It was held that the applicants failed to give an acceptable explanation for the delay for requesting the two sets of documents since they could not prove that they became aware of the documents sought at a later stage.
It was also held that the fifth respondent had not formally withdrawn from the case and would be prejudiced if the discovery was allowed,mainly because they could no longer bring back their witnesses and put the documents in cross-examination.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the magistrate to sentence the first appellant and second appellant to 15 months and ten months imprisonment respectively, for theft of diamonds. The appellants had pleaded guilty to the charge but appealed against their sentences.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether the trial magistrate had erred in passing the respective sentences. The court found that the court below placed too much emphasis on the value of the diamonds and the deterrent nature of the sentences to the exclusion of the personal circumstances of the appellants. Further, it was held that the magistrate did not take into account the cooperation of the appellants or the fact that they were first offenders. The court went on to hold that the magistrate made an unjustified differentiation between the appellants’ sentences.
Accordingly, the court set aside the sentences and substituted them for the payment of a fine amounting to M250 and in default of payment of the fine, imprisonment for two years.
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 matter dealt with an appeal for a decision taken by the Magistrate’s Court to set aside the Local Court’s decision to absolve from the matter about the ownership of a certain piece of arable land.
It was the appellant’s case that while he was out of the country the chieftainship had deprived him of the land and reallocated it to the respondent who since used it. The respondent argued that the chief had rightly allocated the land to him and that the appellant had never been an occupant of said land. The appellant contended that a former directive issued by the court to make a determination of the ownership of the land when a dispute about the ownership arose before, had not been fulfilled and therefore the land would belong to him by default, as he had inherited it.
The High Court found that the issue was never resolved because the chieftainess could not confront the appellant with either of the two tenants whom he had given permission to stay on the land or the witness to the inheritance. Therefore, the appropriateness of the reallocation would have to be determined by senior chiefs before it could be brought to a competent court of law which was the Central Court and not the Local Court. The courts of law had, therefore, no jurisdiction on the matter before it had first been exhausted by the chieftainship in accordance with the Land Act of 1973 and the appeal was thus dismissed.
The court had to review an earlier decision by the same court. The accused was charged with contravening the Precious Stones Order of 1970 for wrongful and unlawful dealing in rough and uncut diamonds as a buyer or seller and for possession of uncut diamonds without a licence. The accused had pleaded guilty to all charges and convicted.
The court at hand had to decide on whether the first count of wrongful and unlawful dealing was appropriate in the circumstances and whether the charge and conviction should be amended.
The prosecutor relied on the testimony of the member in charge of the digging area who stated that when he searched the accused, he found three rough and uncut diamonds in her possession and upon requesting a valid dealing license, she failed to do so. There was no indication that the accused was going to sell those diamonds.
The court held that at the time the accused was apprehended she was not dealing in diamonds, but she was merely in possession of them. For there to be a crime there must be an act or on omission, a mere subjective contemplation of future criminal conduct which does not find outward expression indeed or omission is not criminally punishable.
The court held that the correct charge ought to have been one of possession and nothing more and ordered that the charge be amended accordingly. It however maintained that the previous sentence was adequate.
The appeal at hand flows from an initial application by the respondent for an interdict restraining the second appellant, from directing storm water on to the property of the respondent who cited that the construction of a water drainage system by the second appellant would threaten his properties as they stood lower than the water drainage scheme. He alluded that he foresaw damage to his buildings if the storm water were to come over his properties. A temporary interdict had been granted.
The court in this appeal were tasked with deciding whether the previous court had the jurisdiction to hear the matter and that the interdict be set aside as the second appellant was discharging their statutory obligation as per the Roads Act.
The court found that the Magistrate’s Court’s jurisdiction was confined to claims where the value of the subject matter in dispute did not exceed R2000.00. The court held that in order to give life to the interdict, the second appellant would have to design or construct a new drainage system which would in the courts opinion exceed R2000.00 and therefore the magistrate’s court had no jurisdiction.
Further, the respondent’s averment that a drainage system was necessary for safely leading storm water to its nearest natural drainage point was not opposed by the applicant who merely spoke of his property. The court held that such works were a necessity and the respondents ought to have been allowed to work.
The order was set aside.
This appeal arose from a rule nisi application that required the appellant to justify why an interdict should not be issued against him for the unlawful use of the respondent’s property.
The respondent instituted interdict proceedings when the appellant continued to use the disputed property after a default judgment that reinstated a previous judgment in his favor.
The court noted that interdict applications require proof of a clear right, an injury and the absence of any other satisfactory remedy.
The appellant submitted that the respondent had alternative remedies in contempt proceedings and a writ of execution. The court noted that the real issue was whether the alternative remedies would afford adequate protection from the continuing mischief. The court held that contempt proceedings are entirely unsatisfactory, where the injury has already started and is continuing. It was also held that a writ of execution was unsatisfactory for immovable property such as land.
The appellant claimed that service by postal service did not constitute proper service of summons as per rule 44 of Central and Local Courts (Practice and Procedure) Rules; and that this affected the validity of the default judgment. However, the court noted that the service was properly effected. It was also held that the validity of a default judgment was not affected by service of summons so, it was valid unless set aside lawfully.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.
The plaintiff in this case was permitted by the Chief of Matebeng to graze 187 goats and 84 sheep at Pekamollo near Mount Tsolo. The defendants took legal custody of about 700 of the plaintiff's animals and some of the plaintiff’s animals died in their custody.
The plaintiff instituted a claim for damages caused by the defendants’ trespass and negligence. He submitted that the death of his animals was caused by the defendants’ failure to exercise reasonable care to safe keep the animals.
The plaintiff proceeded with the case against the second, third, fourth and seventh defendants who did not file their notice to defend the claim. The court was satisfied that the plaintiff had made a conclusive case on the claim for negligence since the defendants decided not to give any defence.
The court held that the plaintiff was not entitled to damages for trespass since the first defendant was the Chief of Tsolo and had the power to decide which area under his jurisdiction was a reserved pasture. It was also held that the other damages were reasonable.
Accordingly, the second, third, fourth and seventh defendants were found to be severally and jointly liable. The court ordered the payment of M18,090.00 for the loss of the animals that died; M2,000.00 for the loss of wool and mohair; and an interest at the rate of 11% per annum from date of the judgment and costs of the suit.