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 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.
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to dismiss an application for review of an application for the setting aside of a decision made by the second respondent, the Member of the Executive Committee of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga (the MEC), and upheld on appeal by the first respondent, the Director General, Environmental Management, Mpumalanga, (the DG). The decision in question was to permit the construction of a filling station in White River. The appellant contended that the permission was given contrary to the provisions of the law.
The court observed that all environmental precautions had been taken into account by the scoping report. It found that the land had been rezoned by the local authority from special area to a business area, based on need and desirability. The court held that that the key factors’ in deciding to grant the application in the circumstance were: firstly, that the property had been rezoned from “special” to “business”; secondly, that no potential threatened plant and animal species were recorded during the site investigation; and, that all identified and perceived impacts were satisfactorily dealt with in the scoping report and the recommendations proposed were sufficient to minimize any negative impacts. Since all this were observed. The appellant case was dismissed with cost.
This was an application for a temporary injunction to restrain the defendant from developing the land until it obtained a positive environmental impact assessment, causing excessive noise and dust pollution from his property.
The applicant contended that the defendant was interfering with its right to a clean, safe and secure environment and, that the plaintiff’s tenants were unable to occupy the plaintiff’s premises due to nuisance and pollution on the defendant’s property.
The court determined whether the plaintiff had the necessary locus standi.
The court noted that non-compliance of statutory provisions or conditions made there were of a public nature and could have been dealt with by reporting to the Nairobi City Council officials,and the Commissioner of Lands. It was further noted that the grievances on non-compliance with provisions relating to environmental impact assessments should have been dealt with by the National Environmental Management Authority. For these reasons, the court held that the plaintiff lacked locus standi to institute the suit. Consequently, the application was dismissed with costs.
The applicant intended to erect a petrol station and submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report to the respondent for approval. The respondent did not, however, respond to the report within three months, as envisaged in the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act. The applicant decided to proceed with the project, as permitted by section 58 (9) of the Act.
The respondent stopped the project and handed the applicant a letter to the effect that the proposal for the project had been rejected.
The applicant applied for judicial review orders and submitted that the respondent had failed to conduct public hearings to assess the acceptability of the proposal. Thus, the respondent could not interfere with the applicant’s statutory discretion under section 58 (9) of the Act.
The court had to decide whether the rejection by the respondent was binding and if the respondent had sufficient grounds for the rejection.
The court held that the remedy of judicial review deals with the process, but not the merits of the decision by a tribunal, therefore the respondent’s submission that the applicant should have appealed to the tribunal if aggrieved, was untenable.
Further, that members of the public were denied sufficient opportunity to respond and make their comments. The applicant could not blame the respondents for failing to comply with section 58 (9). The delay in giving the decision was only one month, which in view of the court, was reasonable in the circumstances.
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.
This was an appeal against the decision of the respondents refusing to issue an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Licence for the appellants’ housing project. The appellants asked the tribunal to set aside the decision and award costs of the appeal.
The respondents argued that they had received strong objections from members of the local community since the project was in a wildlife migratory corridor and dispersal area.
The tribunal determined whether the respondents were justified in their decision, subject to the objections, without considering if the objectives of the project could be met in absence of the project. The tribunal noted that the objecting stakeholders also found the project to be worthwhile. The tribunal found that the respondents failed by ascertaining that the views of the objecting stakeholders expressed the views of a significant section of the local community. The tribunal also found that the respondents failed to demonstrate that the potential adverse impacts could not be mitigated.
Based on these findings, the tribunal unanimously set aside the respondents’ decision and issued an EIA licence for the appellants’ project but on several conditions
The court considered and application for an injunction to restrain the defendant from directing storm and waste water into the plaintiff’s dam, or into the neighboring dam.
The defendant had acceded to a request by the members of the community to desilt the dam at the primary school, but as the plaintiff submitted, had failed to conduct an environmental impact assessment before undertaking the rehabilitation of the dam. Further, that the storm water from the defendant’s farm had spilled over to the dam in her parcel of land, thereby polluting it and infringing her right to live in a clean environment.
The issue for determination by this court was whether the plaintiff had established a prima facie case to enable the court to grant her the order of injunction sought.
The court held that the defendant undertook the project before seeking the authority of the National Environmental Management Authority and had therefore not consulted with all parties likely to be affected by the dam in co-ordination with the NEMA, before rehabilitating the dam. Therefore, the defendant breached the law by channeling storm water into the neighboring dam, without first complying with the provisions of the Environmental Management Act and that the plaintiff was within her rights to seek an injunction.
The matter dealt with an urgent application for an order declaring the first to the fifth respondents, who were the directors of the first respondent, to be in contempt of an order of the court.
The first respondent had failed to comply with an order directing it to continue pumping and extracting underground water from its mine shafts. The first respondent also failed to comply with an order to obey directives from the Director General.
The court considered whether the directives were unintelligible and therefore not capable of being complied with. The court affirmed the principle that one cannot be held in contempt of an order of court, where the order is unclear, ambiguous or incomplete. In the circumstances, if all three directives, which called for information which the applicant needed and an interim contribution towards the funding of pumping operations at affected shafts, were read together then the meaning of the directives were plain. Thus, the court found that the directives could be complied with.
The court considered whether the nature of the previous order was such that contempt proceedings were inappropriate. The approach of our courts has been that civil contempt can only be committed in terms of ad factum praestandum (obligation to fulfil or perform an act). In the circumstances, the directives constituted a statutory injunction and so were an ad factum praestandum. Accordingly, the court held that contempt proceedings were appropriate as the directives could be understood and complied with.
The court considered a final appeal against a decision by the Court of Appeal to dismiss the plaintiff’s first appeal against the judgement of the Trial Court.
The origin of this matter was a writ of summons issued to the respondent for payment of money that was deposited as compensation by a third party for their mining operations. The respondent then filed a cross-action seeking a declaration that he was entitled to the compensation and an injunction restraining the appellant’s from claiming the money.
The suits were consolidated and the trial judge gave judgement in favor of the respondent after having found that land used for the third party’s mining operations belonged to him, not the appellant. The appellant then filed an appeal which was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. Still dissatisfied, the appellant filed this final appeal calling upon the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision and to finally determine the matter.
The court found that the lower court adequately considered all the relevant issues. It further found that the High Court of Imo State had requisite jurisdiction to hear the case. The court noted that the appellant stretched the meaning of s 7(1)(p) of Decree No. 60 of 199, beyond reasonable limit by purporting that it ousted the High Court’s jurisdiction in matters of compensating land owners.
The court concluded that the appeal was without merit and deserving of punitive costs. The appeal was dismissed.
The matter concerned the importation of fish, whereby letters of credit were opened at the appellant bank, by the 1st defendant on behalf of the respondent for the importation, which the respondent had sought to cancel.
The court considered the relationships between the parties and found that the opening of the letters of credit created a relationship between the bank, and the respondent, and also imposed on the appellant an obligation to ensure the rights of the respondent were protected. The court found that the appellant failed to do so and resultantly could not escape liability.
The court held that where a duty exists, it must be faithfully observed, since breach thereof would result in damages. The duty owed to the respondent was established with the opening of the letters of credit. This created an obligation on the part of the appellant to keep to the clear terms, under which the letters of credit were to operate. Accordingly, the court found that it was the appellant’s duty to ensure that the terms thereunder were kept.
The court held that where, in a commercial transaction or a contractual relationship, a party signs a disclaimer, then that party by virtue of the disclaimer avoids liability for breach. The court found that the appellant bank, by implication, withdrew their earlier instructions, through their acceptance of the explanations given by the correspondent bank ,and that fact amounted in effect, to not giving any instructions at all.
The court considered an appeal against the judgment of the court below declaring the defendant a tenant, alternatively a licensee of the plaintiff, as well as determining the 2nd defendant’s misgivings concerning the costs awarded against him.
The defendant argued that the land devolved on the chief but was subject to use by both parties’ families. The second defendant was joined as a co-defendant, alleging that the land was founded by his ancestor and that he and his predecessors had been in undisputed possession.
The defendants argued that the judgment was granted erroneously as the trial judge failed to correctly define the boundaries between the parties’ land.
The court found that the trial court had adequately defined the boundaries between the parties’ land and that the first defendant’s ancestor and his people had lived on the land for over 300 years. Thus, although the plaintiffs are the land owners, the defendants are in possession and their possessionary rights should not be disturbed by an injunction.
The court found that in a case that has been on the list for 25 years, costs of ¢1,200,000.00 against 1st Defendant and ¢950,000.00 against 2nd Defendant awarded by the Court in my view is stretching judicial generosity to it limit. I am unable to review the costs mulcted against the Defendants. The appeal by the 2nd Defendant/appellant fails as well as that of the Plaintiff/appellant. In the circumstances the judgment of the lower Court is affirmed.
The matter dealt with an application to review the minister’s refusal to renew an exclusive prospecting license (EPL) for the applicant. Such a license would ordinarily be granted for an initial period of three years and thereafter could be renewed for not more than two successive periods.The applicant held a license from 1997 to 2000 and thereafter sought a renewal which was granted in 2001. However, the second application to renew was denied prompting the applicant to question the validity of the first renewal, The applicant argued that the acceptance of the renewal was done by an unauthorised individual acting outside his mandate and it should therefore be set aside.
The court considered the validity of the first renewal and held that since the initial renewal was by an unauthorised individual, it was void. Consequently it was immaterial whether the minister granted or refused the second application. The court decided further that section 48 of the Act mandates an applicant to accept the terms and conditions of a renewal within one month, failing which the application would be deemed to have lapsed. Consequently, the initial acceptance was ruled to be void because the application for a first renewal had lapsed.
Therefore, the court concluded that because the substance of the applicant's application for review rested on the respondent's refusal of the second renewal of the EPL, that second renewal could not have been granted or refused, because the EPL had already expired and was never legally renewed.