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 by the High Court to award the respondents compensation of N22 million, on the ground that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to try the case.
The facts of the case were that as a result of the applicant’s oil exploration activities, crude oil polluted the respondents’ farmlands, fish ponds and streams. The High Court awarded damages against the appellant who then unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appellant contended that ss7(b), 7(3) and 7(5) of the Federal High Court (Amendment) Decree 60 of 1991 ousted the jurisdiction of the High Court on claims pertaining to mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas.
The court considered whether the construction and maintenance of an oil pipeline constituted mining operations and whether the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear such claims pertaining to mining and minerals.
The court found that the construction, operation and maintenance of an oil pipeline by a holder of an oil prospecting licence was an act pertaining to mining operations. As a result the court found that the claims fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court as provided under s230(1)(a) of the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree 107 of 1993. Accordingly, the court set aside the High Court decision on the ground that it was a nullity for want of jurisdiction.
In this case, the applicants sought an interdict against an administrative decision not to renew short term mining leases. The applicants held mining licenses for several years which were renewable every six months. The Minister of Natural Resources, the first respondent sent the Acting Commissioner of Mines and two other officials to inform the applicants that their licenses would expire and not be renewed at the expiration of the six month duration. However, a two months extension was granted to enable final sifting and cessation of operations. Nevertheless, the applicants argued that the notice was too short and that they were legitimately expecting the leases to be renewed again.
The High court noted that the issue at hand was not one of cancellation or revocation, but one of non-renewal. Therefore, the issue that the court examined was whether the administrative decision not to renew the licenses was legal.
The court observed although that the applicants had a legitimate expectation to be heard before the decision not to renew their licences was made, they had been given time and opportunity to air their concerns. The court found that prior to the cancellation, the respondents were informed of the non-renewal on two occasions but made no attempt to persuade the respondents that the intended suspension was inappropriate or prejudicial. The court also held that there was insufficient evidence to show that the respondents had acting in bad faith and dismissed the application.
The matter deal with a land dispute. After the first defendant declared the plot of land in question a “selected development area” and leased it to the second defendant, the second defendant fenced it off. Prior to this, the plaintiffs had been the lawful occupiers and users of that plot of land which they utilised for agricultural purposes.
Initially, the plaintiffs sought a court order declaring as void the first respondent’s decision to define the plot of land a “selected development area” and an eviction order ejecting the second defendant or, alternatively, a compensation order ordering the defendants to compensate the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs conceded however, that the second defendant did come into occupation of the land legally. Eventually, the parties agreed that the court should decide only whether the plaintiffs were entitled to compensation.
Relying on s45(2) of the Land Act No 17 of 1979, the court held that two conditions must be satisfied for the loser of the right to use and occupy particular piece of land to be entitled to compensation. First, the selected development area that has been declared must consist wholly or partly of agricultural land within a selected agricultural area. Second, the land must be within a "selected agricultural area".
The plaintiffs, however, did neither allege nor prove that the land was in a selected agricultural area. Consequently, the plaintiffs claim for compensation failed and was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an appeal, based on a judgment from the court below, the issue of importance being political patronage by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA). This issue stemmed from a decision made by the Interim Political Authority (IPA), which sought to eliminate political patronage on the basis that the IPA (respondent) had the power to declare certain conduct political patronage.
Political patronage has been defined as a situation in which one person is rewarded for supporting a particular politician. The respondents argued that the involvement of members of parliament in the work of the DMA had nothing to do with political patronage, and rather to do with the efficient discharge of obligations, thus to feed people during times of famine and natural disasters. Further, that the distribution was done by constituencies, and thus due to members of parliament being elected by the public, they had an intimate knowledge of their communities needs and the constituencies needs in terms of resources.
The court found that this argument was eminently sensible and does not contain an element of political patronage. Further, that political patronage had to be established objectively. The fact that the IPA dictated that conduct was political patronage doesn’t make it so, and to hold this position would amount to an untenable position. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded
The court considered an application for an interdict, restraining the respondents and their associates from setting foot near the diamond mine.
The respondents raised several issues, including the material disputes of facts, making the application unsuitable. The correct procedure as the respondents argued, was to proceed through the issuing of summons. The court pointed out that over the years, the court has allowed litigants to proceed by way of action proceedings if facts are not disputed, or if no dispute of fact is foreseeable. The court dealt with the requirements for an interdict and concluded that the applicants met the requirements. The court held that the applicants established a clear right to the mine and the respondents were interfering with such a right. The court also pointed out that there was no clear, alternative right available to the applicants. On the contrary, the respondents had other remedies available in the event that the interdict affected their rights.
The court granted the interdict and restrained the first and second respondents from setting foot at the diamond mine under the administration of the applicant.
This matter determined whether the principles of granting an injunction should be applied differently in environmental litigation.
The applicants sought an injunction to restrain the respondents from mining and excavation activities which were likely to trigger environmental and health problems. The respondents argued that they were not mining but prospecting and had a license to do so.
The court determined that the applicants had the necessary locus standi by virtue of being persons entitled to a clean and healthy environment as per s3(2) of the Environment Management and Coordination Act (EMCA).
The court determined whether the grounds for the grant of an injunction were satisfied by the application. The court noted that breaches of the environmental statute must be looked at without the trappings of the law on injunctions but rather in line with the principles under s3 of the EMCA.
The court established that anybody who intends to mine or conduct prospecting activities is required to submit a project report and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) as per s58 of the EMCA. It was further held that where the provision is not complied with, it is immaterial whether such person had a license. The court found that the respondent failed to comply with the provisions of the act and declared the respondent’s activities illegal.
The injunction was granted since the environmental factors were not taken into account before the project commenced.