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 was a Supreme Court case that revolved around an agreement between the parties which was suddenly terminated. The agreement demanded that the respondent to import oil resources on behalf of the Government of Namibia. The arrangement proved to be failure as the cost of importing petroleum was high against the market price. Consequently, the first appellant, acting in ministerial capacity decided to end the agreement. The first respondent felt aggrieved and filed a suit in the High Court, asking it to review the decision of the cabinet that terminated the said contract.
As such, the main issue, in this case, was whether the cabinet of the government of the Republic of Namibia acted lawfully when it revoked the mandate of the respondents to import petroleum products. The High Court in determining this issue held that the cabinet had no legally tenable reason(s) to end the contract in question.
However, on appeal, the Supreme Court held that under the Namibian Constitution in article 27(2), the executive power of the Republic of Namibia vests in the president and the cabinet. It further held that under the article, the cabinet has the role of supervising the activities of the government departments. Since the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents are government parastatals the cabinet justifiably exercised its regulatory powers in the best interest of the Namibian people.
The Supreme Court thus overturned the decision of the High Court and accordingly upheld the appeal.
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.
The plaintiff sought orders that it did not owe the defendant for any service, and for a permanent injunction restraining the defendant from interfering with or disconnecting the plaintiff’s water system connected to its borehole due to an outstanding water bill.
The court considered whether it had jurisdiction to hear and determine this suit and application. The provisions of s 85 of the Water Act show that the jurisdiction of the Water Appeals Board is two-fold: first is to hear appeals from decisions and orders of the Water Resources Management Authority, the minister, or the Water Services Regulatory Board concerning a permit or licence. The second jurisdiction of the Water Appeals Board is as is conferred by any law. There was no decision or order on a permit or licence being appealed in this suit and application. Accordingly, the court found that this dispute is not envisaged by s 85(1).
Furthermore, s 85(2) showed that the additional jurisdiction granted to the Water Appeals Board was in fact limited, and it did not have jurisdiction to determine all disputes under the act, but only those disputes where jurisdiction was conferred on it by the Water Act or any other act. No such law was cited by the defendant, to warrant the application of s 85(2). Therefore, the court found that s 85 did not apply to the facts of this suit and application, and that it, therefore, had jurisdiction to determine the matter.
Preliminary objection dismissed.
The court considered an application requesting an order to commit the respondents for contempt of court for not respecting an interdict which restrained them from undertaking any developments on the land in dispute, until the determination of an application for interlocutory injunction.
The respondents argued that they were not in contempt since no formal order had been issued to give effect to the orders of the court. The respondents also denied developing the land in dispute. The court noted that there was no requirement for a formal order to be issued, since both parties and their counsel were in court when the order was issued.
The court considered whether the respondents willfully disobeyed the interdict order by going to the land in dispute, to work. The court found that contempt is a criminal offence, which requires an applicant to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, and to make a prima facie case before the respondent’s defence is considered.
The court found that the evidence was inconclusive since the applicant relied on pictures of people building on the land, but failed to identify the respondents as the people in the pictures, alternatively to prove that the respondents sent the people in the pictures.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
This case concerned the duty of a public authority to provide portable water to a community that had been exposed to unsafe water. The applicants sought the following orders: the declaration of the respondents’ failure to provide water over one week as unlawful; a directive to the respondents find a temporary solution to provide water and a directive that the respondents take steps to restore the water supply services. The applicants stressed the urgency of the matter and asked the court to condone non-compliance with the provisions of the rules of the court.
The court considered whether the application before it was one of urgency and whether the applicants’ failure to comply with procedural rules could be condoned in the circumstances. The court held that the right to adequate access to water was a constitutional one and that when it was violated, the matter automatically became urgent. Consequently, it determined that the application was urgent and condoned the procedural irregularities.
The court held that it was the function of the local government to provide water. Consequently, the court ordered only the sixth and seventh respondents to temporarily make portable water available and to restore the water supply services in consultation with the applicants. These respondents were further ordered to report back to the court within one month.
The court was, however, disinclined to declare as unlawful the failure of the respondents to provide portable water for over one week, because the community residents themselves were partially to blame for this.
The matter concerned an application to the High Court for review of the decision of the first respondent to dismiss an appeal lodged by the applicant against environmental authorisations granted by the second respondent to the fourth and fifth respondent. The applicant argued that its right to procedural fairness was violated because a number of statutory provisions were not strictly followed. It was the applicant’s contention, however, that the words ‘must’ and ‘shall’ indicate the imperative, mandatory and preemptive intention of these provisions.
The court considered whether the act required exact compliance in every instance and whether the public participation process was flawed in this case. The court cited s47(a) of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and held that requirements classified as mandatory need not, in fact, be strictly complied with, but that substantial or adequate compliance may be sufficient. In the present case, the court found that the failure to strictly comply with the statutory requirements did not materially prejudice the rights of the applicant.
The court also found no support for the applicant’s allegations that the public participation process was flawed or inhibited and that the environment would be endangered in any way. Rather, the court agreed with the respondents that the applicant seemed to attempt to capitalize on trivial deficiencies to discredit the entire process.
The court, therefore, dismissed the applicant’s application with costs.
This was a judicial review against a decision by the Minister of Environmental affairs approving a flawed strategic plan to show commitment for the establishment of a seabird and marine mammal rehabilitation centre. The applicant sought a declaratory order that the first and second respondents failed to adhere to the Revised Record of Decision (ROD).
The origin of the case was an administrative appeal by South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Trust (Samrec) faulting a specific condition in the ROD for not placing any obligation on stakeholders whose operations were likely to affect the marine life of Algoa Bay. Samrec proposed amendments that were rejected.
The ROD was amended to require the stakeholders to submit a strategic plan indicating their commitment to facilitating the establishment of the rehabilitation centre. Samrec faulted this amendment, arguing that the obligation created was not sufficient.
The minister maintained that the first and second respondents were compliant and her department bore the responsibility for environmental protection and oil spillage damage, but considered it necessary to have her views placed before court.
The court applied the rule that it should be slow to substitute or vary an administrative decision since an administrative body is better equipped and has the expertise to make the right decisions than the court, unless court has to step in to ensure fairness. The court held that this was not such a case.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed and each party was ordered to bear its own costs.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold an interdict against the applicant to stop the applicant from mining until the respective land in contention was re-zoned to permit mining in terms of provincial legislation. The minister had earlier granted mining permits to the appellant to mine areas zoned as public open spaces in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. The appellant contended the act was superior to the provincial legislation and Supreme Court had erred in upholding the High Court interdict against it. The appellant had claimed that mining fell under the exclusive competence of national government and that the proposition that provincial legislation regulating municipal planning applied to it would be tantamount to allowing municipal government to intrude into the terrain of the national sphere.
The Constitutional Court in determining whether to grant leave considered whether the provincial legislation that required rezoning did not apply to land used for mining.
The court, in rejecting the applicant’s argument, held that the provincial law and the national law served different purposes which fall within the competences of the local and the national sphere. Each sphere was exercising power allocated to it by the Constitution and regulated by the relevant legislation.
The court concluded that the interdicts were invalidly issued and held further that in order to bring clarity to the application of competing laws, leave to appeal ought to be granted in order to deal with the constitutional issues raised.
The matter arose from a power purchase agreement entered into by the Government of Ghana and the first defendant for the rehabilitation of a power barge.
The court considered whether the agreement constituted an international business transaction, within the meaning of Article 181(5) of the Constitution.
The court held that a business transaction is “international” within the context of article 181(5) where the nature of the business which is the subject-matter of the transaction is international, in the sense of having a significant foreign element, or the parties to the transaction (other than the Government) have a foreign nationality or reside in different countries or, in the case of companies, the place of their central management and control is outside Ghana. Accordingly, the court held that the agreement constituted an international business transaction within the meaning of Article 181(5) of the Constitution.
The court considered whether or not the arbitration provisions of the agreement constituted an international business transaction within the meaning of article 181(5) of the Constitution. An international commercial arbitration is not by itself an autonomous transaction commercial in nature which pertains to or impacts on the wealth and resources of the country and is, therefore, difficult to conceive of as a transaction independent from the transaction that generated the dispute it is required to resolve.
Accordingly, the court found that the arbitration provisions did not constitute an international business transaction within the meaning of article 181(5) of the Constitution.
The case was remitted to the High Court to apply this court’s interpretation of article 181(5) in the proceedings before it.