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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The matter at hand arose following a decision in the High Court which the applicant wanted to appeal. In compliance with rule 15 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, the registrar of the High Court prepared the record of appeal and, thereafter, invited the parties to inspect the record before forwarding it to the Supreme Court.
The applicant’s legal practitioner inspected the record and opined that the record was incomplete. An exchange of letters then followed between the registrar and the practitioner about the relevance of the alleged missing information. In the process, the prescribed ten days for inspection lapsed, prompting the registrar to inform the applicant that he had, therefore, abandoned the appeal.
The court had to determine the meaning of ‘inspection’ in terms of the rules and whether the applicant complied with the rules for inspection or not.
The court held that the word ‘inspect’ meant ‘to look at or examine carefully’ and where such examination has occurred, the examiner should certify this. To merely examine without such a seal would be of no relevancy to the process.
The court held that the applicant’s practitioner had done this as evidenced by opining after the fact for the inclusion of information, but failed to comply with the signing off requirement which he refused to do and, therefore, could not have been said to comply with the rules of the court in that aspect and as a result the time lapsed.
Accordingly, the appeal failed.
The court considered an application for review concerning the forfeiture of gold whereby the respondent was found guilty of contravening s 8(1) of the Gold Trade Act. The accused owned a jewelry shop whereby he traded gold. The Zimbabwe Republic Police Gold Squad regularly visited the accused’s shop to ensure that he was complying with the act. On one visit, it became clear that the accused had not registered 8.59g of gold into the register as required by the act.
The court found that after the conviction of the accused, a review of the record revealed that the learned magistrate had not made an order for the forfeiture of the gold. Despite the accused attempting to secure the return of the gold, he was informed it had been forfeited to the state. Pursuant to the accused’s investigation, and obtaining the record again, the record appeared to make reference to the forfeiture of the gold.
The court found that the only explanation was that the trial magistrate entered the forfeiture clause well after the sentence had been imposed and the accused started claiming the gold. In conclusion, the court found that the conviction and sentence were adequate but held that the forfeiture clause contained in the record be set aside and the accused be sentenced afresh.
The matter concerned an application on whether the Federal Court had jurisdiction to hear a claim for payment against a chartered ship in a contract for the carriage of fish by sea from Argentina to Nigeria. The facts were that the respondent brought an action in the Federal High Court due to a delay by the appellant to take delivery within the time agreed by the parties in the Bill of Lading. The contract however, stated that any dispute arising would be heard in the Courts of Argentina and the applicant challenged the court’s jurisdiction on this basis. The application was dismissed by the Federal Court and the decision upheld on appeal by the Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court considered whether the lower court had erred in upholding the decision of the Federal Court. It observed that, in the absence of evidence from the respondent on the appellant’s application, there was nothing to consider in favour of the respondent to support their actions contrary to the agreement between the parties, in holding the Federal Court as the proper venue for the hearing and determination of its case against the appellant. It held that in the absence of strong cause shown by the respondent for the trial court not to grant the appellant’s application for stay, the law required that the court exercise its discretion in favour of the appellant by granting the application. Accordingly, the appeal was upheld, and the judgment of the lower court was therefore set aside.
At the heart of this dispute was a farmers’ association, the applicant in this case, and its use of land in the Nkambeni Area. The association was formed, with the chief’s consent after he was assured that the community unanimously supported the project to turn their land into commercial property. The dispute initially arose because the second respondent was denied membership of the association because his younger brother was already representing their family. This offended the second respondent who considered himself to be the legitimate representative. The dispute mutated and the respondents alleged that the chief deprived them of their fields without consent. The court considered whether there had been unlawful deprivation.
Previously, the dispute was taken to traditional structures for resolution and ultimately was referred to the Swazi National Council where the King rendered a judgement. The applicant and respondents disagreed about the contents and effect of this judgement. The applicants stated that the association was given permission to pursue its activities and the respondents invited to apply for alternative land. On the other hand, the respondents claimed that traditional structures and the regional administrator ruled in their favour before the Swazi National Council was approached and that the latter declined to give a ruling on the matter.
After considering evidence and witness testimony, the court found that the applicant’s evidence was cogent and consistent while the respondents’ evidence was unsatisfactory and contradictory. Consequently, the application was granted.
The applicant prayed to the High Court to grant an interim interdict and set aside a previous default judgement. The first respondent had applied for and been granted damages amounting to E65,0000.00 for damages caused by blasting by employees of Grinaker LTA Civil Engineering (Pty) Ltd. At the heart of this dispute laid the fact that Grinaker LTA Civil Engineering (Pty) Ltd did not exist.
Confusing the applicant with Ginaker LTA (Pty), one of its former names, the second respondent attempted to attach the applicant’s assets at the applicant’s place of business. The applicants informed the first respondent that the company they had sued did not exist by supplying proof in regard thereto. The first respondent did not, however, amend its summons and the second respondent again attempted to attach the applicant’s assets.
The applicant further noted that it and Consolidated Contractors International Company S.A.L. were partners in a joint venture entered into an agreement with the third respondent, the Government of Swaziland. The contract identified the joint venture as contractor and the third respondent as employer. Relying on provision in the Federation Internationale des Ingenieurs-Conseils, the applicant argued that the employer shall indemnify the contractor against all claims in respect of the unavoidable result of the execution and completion of the works.
The applicant, therefore, argued that the respondents should have addressed the summons properly to Grinaker LTA (Ltd), Aveng (Africa) Ltd (successor) and the Swaziland Government (indemnifier).
The court agreed with the applicant’s arguments and granted the application.
This was an appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgment of the High Court that ordered the appellants to pay security for the costs of the second respondent. The second respondent had opposed an application brought against it by the appellants in the High Court challenging the renewal of an exclusive prospecting licence (EPL 2101) issued by the first respondent in terms of the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act 33 of 1992. The second respondent then filed an application for security in terms of Rule 47(1) as read with Rule 47(3) of the Rules of the High Court, on the basis that the appellants were persons of no or insufficient means to meet an adverse costs order in their main application and further that the appellants were fronts for parties who had been involved in prior litigation with the second respondent.
The Supreme Court relied on various authorities and emphasised that a court of appeal should not interfere with the exercise of the lower court’s discretion. The court saw no basis on which to interfere with the decision of the High Court that the appellants were persons of straw and that they had been put up as a front for others engaged in prior litigation with the applicant. The appeal was dismissed with costs and the second respondent was awarded the wasted costs occasioned by the abandonment by the appellants of the application in terms of Rule 18 of the Rules of the Court.
The court considered an appeal against an injunction to restrain the appellants from going onto the disputed land to demarcate, dig, construct etc. any tree on the land until the action had been finally determined. The court considered, 1) the weight of evidence and 2) the capacity of the respondent.
The respondent obtained a customary grant of land 22 years before the action. Later, he obtained a formal lease and was reallocated additional acres of land, which was used to cultivate cash and food crops. Due to development in the area, the respondent’s land was whittled away. The respondent alleged that the appellants trespassed on his land and undertook various activities such as alienation of portions of his land, in the premise.
On the ground of capacity, it was found that once a party’s capacity had been challenged, it should be determined as a preliminary point and the suit can only be heard after this is determined. The court held that the appellants did not raise capacity as a preliminary issue and as such, the manner in which it was raised was a ploy to confuse the trial judge.
On ground of the weight of evidence, the court found that if the injunction had not been granted, the respondents land would have been pillaged and its nature entirely changed. Thus, an injunction was necessary to ensure that irreparable damage was not caused.
The court found that the trial judge exercised his discretion properly and thus the appeal was dismissed and remitted to the trial court for continuation.
The matter dealt with an application for review of a decision by the first respondent to grant a reconnaissance licence to the second respondent. The issue for the court’s consideration was whether it was permissible to grant an exclusive reconnaissance license to a non-holder of a reconnaissance license and whether a side note in a statute could be used in the interpretation of a statutory provision.
The applicant conceded that in terms of section 59(1)(a) of the Minerals Act, they were not a holder of a reconnaissance licence and therefore could not have applied for an exclusive reconnaissance as required by that section but contended that an exclusive reconnaissance licence was competent under section 62(1) of the act.
The court in dismissing the application decided that ss 59 to 62 complemented each other. The court cited Chandler v DPP which held that side notes cannot be used as an aid to the construction of legislation as they are mere catchwords inserted by the draftsman and not the legislator. Therefore the notion that the marginal note to s 59 held that the section only deals with exclusive reconnaissance licences was immaterial. The court held that the language of s 59(1)(a) instead demonstrated that an ordinary reconnaissance license could not be issued under s 62(1), unless it was first granted under s 59(1)(a) and ruled that only the holder of a valid reconnaissance license may apply for an exclusive reconnaissance license under s59(1)(b).
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the High Court to remit the decision of a board, regarding the appellant’s submission to build below the control flood line, back to that board for determination.
The main issues for consideration were: whether the lower court had set aside the initial decision of the board; whether the court should have determined the matter on the merits; and whether the board had authority to grant permission or not, without any proof of pollution.
The appellant had argued that the matter should not have been remitted back to the board but determined on its merits and further that the court should have ordered costs to the appellant, as the decision was made in its favour.
The court established that it was clear from a reading of the judgment in its entirety that the intention of the lower court had been to set aside the decision of the board. The court held further that the lower court was right in refusing to determine the matter when the evidence revealed that a decision was taken by the Chief Executive Officer alone and not the board. The court concluded that since no decision had been taken by the board as required, it would have to determine whether permission should be granted and whether there was any danger of pollution.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal but ordered the first respondent to bear the appellant’s costs in the matter before the lower court.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the High Court to set aside a magistrate’s grant of an interdict to the appellant. The High Court held that the magistrate had no jurisdiction to grant the interdict in exercise of its powers under s 30(1) of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 32 of 1944 because s 29(1)(g) sets a monetary limit on the value of the matter in dispute.
The court considered whether the jurisdiction of the magistrate was excluded due to the limit on the monetary value of the matter in dispute in accordance with the act.
The court established that the matter before the magistrate court related not to the value of the business but to the unlawful activities that the appellant claimed amounted to nuisance. The court found that the respondents had not complied with the requirements for the use of their land including the submission of an environmental and health assessment report and that their activities affected the appellant adversely. The court held that the respondent had not proved that the cost of abating the nuisance was beyond the jurisdiction of the magistrate.
The court concluded that in the circumstances, the magistrate had the jurisdiction to grant an interdict. In conclusion, the court set aside the order of the High Court and replaced it with an order that the appeal to that court be dismissed with costs.
Accordingly, the court upheld the appeal with costs and ordered that the decision of the magistrate be reinstated.