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 matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal that upheld a decision of the High Court to order that compensation be paid to the respondents for damage caused to economic crops, fish ponds and lakes by the activities of an oil company. The appellants contended that the respondents, despite being occupiers of the land, were customary tenants and that they (appellants) were exclusively entitled to compensation as the owners of the land. The Court of Appeal in upholding the decision of the High Court held that the matter was not predicated on title to land but rather one for entitlement to compensation and granted judgment in favour of the respondents.
The Supreme Court considered whether the lower court was wrong to have heldáthat title to the land, the subject of claim for compensation by the parties, was not in issue. The court held that the issue of claim of title was certainly not before the trialácourt and the learned trial judge was right in not consideringáand determining that issue in his judgment. Accordingly, it held that the court below was right in upholding the trial court's decision that the identity of the land in question was not an issue and claim was solely one for compensation and not title. Accordingly the court dismissed the appeal.
This matter dealt with an appeal against a decision of the High Court dismissing the appellant’s claim for a declaration of rights over land and the setting aside of a directive made by the minister. The appellant had contended in the lower court that the act was only applicable to agricultural land and was not intended to relate to land within a proclaimed township.
The main issues for the court’s consideration were whether the land in question fell within the scope of the minister’s powers under the act and whether these powers were lawfully exercised.
The court established that the wording of the act was clear, and that the extent of the minister’s power did not cover non-agricultural land. The court concluded that the decision of the minister should have been set aside. The court stated further that the powers under s 31A of the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989 were not to be applied without the procedure set out in the act. Therefore, in the absence of compliance with these procedures, the minister’s decision was invalid. Accordingly, the court upheld the appeal with costs to the appellant.
Jafta JA in a dissenting judgment held that the procedure set out in the act dealt mainly with procedural fairness and was not a prerequisite for the exercise of the minister’s powers. He concluded that the procedural aspects if applied in this context would defeat the purpose of the powers under s 31A of the act, to protect the environment.
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 court considered an appeal against the first respondent’s decision to approve the second respondent’s construction, of a light industry, namely a metal fabricating workshop.
The appellants argued that the approval was granted without public consultation and that the construction would interfere with their quiet occupation of their residences. They alleged that the construction would produce noise, emit fumes and encourage the setting up of other industries in a high class residential area. The first respondent argued that this claim was not one for noise or air pollution, but construction, and it did not fall within the scope of its functions but that of the municipal council. The second respondent argued that all relevant consultations had taken place prior to the approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) project report.
The tribunal considered the grounds of appeal and observed that the purpose of the EIA process under the act was to assess the likely, significant impacts of a proposed development project on the environment. It stated that the assessment included air quality, water quality, traffic, noise, and other features of the environment but these considerations were not affected by whether an area is designated as a residential area.
The tribunal held that, there was no evidence to show that the second respondent’s development, would adversely impact on the environment, in the area, in ways that could not be mitigated by the measures that had been proposed by the second respondent in the EIA report.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The applicants sought two interdicts restraining the first to fourth respondents from noise pollution through their timber business operations on weekdays between 6.00 pm and 8.00 am on weekdays, any time over weekends and on public holidays; and another interdict in requiring the respondents to limit "any noise generated by their operations”.
The court found that the applicants had a clear right to go about their business without the interference of noise unreasonably caused by the respondents. It noted that the respondents’ figures proved that traffic past the applicant’s premises had increased. Expert evidence also revealed that the noise levels were too high at night.
The respondents claimed that the applicants voluntarily assumed the risk by going to the noise. The court noted that the applicants had decided to expand their cottages 20 metres from a public road without adequate noise insulation and found the defence to be partly convincing.
The court held that the co-existence of the timber and the tourism industry in the area required both parties to give and take. The first interdict was granted partly. The court gave an order prohibiting first to fourth respondents from engaging in the noise generating operations from 8.00 pm to 8.00 am on Mondays to Fridays and after 2.00 pm on Saturdays until 8.00 am on Mondays. The restraint on public holidays was held to be unreasonable.
The second interdict was not granted for being too general and failing to specifically state what the respondents would be refrained from.
This matter arose from an application for judicial review of a decision of the defendant to issue a notice for the cancellation of the plaintiff’s license. The plaintiff prayed for orders of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus.
The court certified the application as urgent and directed the applicant to serve the respondent. The respondent failed to make an appearance during the hearing, and the court granted leave to stay the notice of cancellation of the licence.
The respondent later filed an application under s 3A of Civil Procedure Act to set aside the stay order. The court found that the replying affidavits filed by the interested parties raised environmental issues and deficiency in the procedure leading to the grant of licence to the applicant.
The court noted its obligation to protect and uphold the authority of all the concerned parties to preserve and manage the environment. The court thus ordered the applicant and the Water Resource Management Authority (interested party) to file joint reports after surveying the riparian reserve area to indicate whether the project had interfered with the reserve. In case of failure to get a joint report, the court ordered the parties to file separate reports from their respective experts within 15 days and prohibited the applicant from developing the area of suit land along the riparian reserve.
This was an appeal against the decision of the Magistrates Court, dismissing the appellant’s application for bail. The appellant was arrested for possessing gold without a licence.
At the initial bail hearing, the Magistrate questioned the issue of abscondment and held that the appellant was unlikely to stand trial for various reasons such as him being a “a man of means” who “could use that status to abscond”. The magistrate further held that the stipulated mandatory penalty “could certainly ignite motives of abscondment” and that “the onus was now on the accused to show on a balance of probabilities that his admission to bail would not prejudice the interests of justice”.
The court, therefore, had to decide whether the magistrate’s approach to onus was erroneous in light of the evidence placed before him.
The court held that the magistrate a quo did not misdirect himself as to the approach to follow but had failed to exercise due diligence. He made unfounded allegations which did not indicate whether the appellant was likely to abscond for those reasons. He had also left a lot of issues open ended such as the severity of the penalty, the issue of passports and had ultimately failed to assess the strength of the evidence forwarded by the appellant.
Therefore, the magistrate a quo misdirected himself his evaluation of the likelihood of abscondment by the appellant and the evidence did not indicate that the appellant would abscond. Accordingly, his decision to decline bail was set aside.
In this case the applicants sought an urgent interdict preventing the respondents from demolishing homes in the Mangwaneni, Manzana and Makholokholo, through which the new construction of the New Mbabane Bypass road was carried out.
First, the court had to consider whether the matter was urgent and held that applicants needed to prove the matter’s urgency. The court found that the applicants had shown the urgency of the matter in their founding affidavit.
Second, the respondents argued that the application did not adequately describe the ninth applicant and that it could therefore not be admitted. Considering existing jurisprudence, the court held that a relaxed approach should be taken on the issue to not inhibit public interest litigation. Consequently, the court condoned the citation of the parties.
Finally, the respondents argued that the applicants did not fulfill the conditions for an urgent interdict because they could seek compensation from the committee responsible for compensating resettled people. The applicants claimed that the committee no longer existed. Thus, the court had to consider whether the committee responsible for compensating the people who had been resettled by the project was still active. Given this situation, the court decided to postpone the matter, ordering the applicants to submit their claims to the secretary of the committee within seven days and ordering the committee to address these claims within 21 days. The secretary of the committee was also ordered to submit a report to the court. The court postponed all outstanding matters until then.
This was a ruling on an application to file a supplementary affidavit that would be admitted by the court as part of the applicant’s case.
The respondents argued that applicants could not rely on the said supplementary affidavit since they failed to join the authority (Director of Swaziland Environmental Authority) as a party to the proceedings. The court noted that one of the respondents was yet to make an application on the non-joinder of the authority.
The court held that admitting the supplementary affidavit before arguments on the non-joinder would prejudice the respondents. The correct approach would be to allow the respondents to argue the non-joinder and the applicants could then bring the supplementary affidavit in their replies.
The court concluded that the application for the filing of the supplementary affidavit be suspended until the applicants responded to the points of law.
No order of costs was granted.