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 court considered an appeal against a judgment of the Gauteng Local Division where the appellants refusal to supply information to the respondent about their industrial activities with possible environmental impacts, was declared invalid and set aside.
Following two requests by the respondent, the appellant refused to give them any information based on a failure to meet the threshold requirements of s 50(1)(a), read with s 53 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000. Further, that their reliance on s 24 of the Constitution was too broad and in conflict with the principle of subsidiarity. I.e. where legislation giving effect to constitutional rights exists, the provisions of the legislation is where the rights should be located.
The court found that the word ‘required’ in s 50(1)(a) of PAIA should be construed as ‘reasonably required’ in the prevailing circumstances for the exercise or protection of the rights by the requestor. Thus, insofar as the environment is concerned, collaborative governance was a virtue.
The court took into consideration the nature of the appellant’s operations and its consequences. The appellant had a reputation for being a major polluter in the areas in which it conducted operations.
The court found that the information was required to make a decision on future actions and could find no error in the court’s reasoning that led it to an order compelling the appellant to provide the requested information and that there is no room for secrecy.
The applicants sought to interdict and restrain the respondent from continuing to refuse access to a parcel of land, based on the respondent refuting an existing and enforceable prospecting right which was held by the applicants.
The court considered whether a prospecting right becomes an enforceable limited real right upon registration in the Mining Titles Office and held, it was universally accepted that mineral rights were real rights. Thus, prospecting rights were limited real rights in respect of the mineral and the land to which such rights related.
The court held that a distinction is drawn between the date the right becomes effective and the date of registration. The right becomes effective from the date of approval and subsequently needs to be registered within 30 days of it becoming effective. Therefore, the prospecting right will become enforceable from the date it is effective. The court found that to interpret the Mineral and Petroleum Development Act to mean that a prospecting right becomes effective but remains unenforceable because it has not been registered, would be impractical.
The court found that the respondent’s refusal was primarily a point of protecting his right as a landowner and to the protecting against being arbitrarily deprived of one’s property. Irrespective of the fact that the applicants renewed their prospecting right, the right remained in force until such time as the renewal had been granted or refused. Thus, the applicants had a valid and existing prospecting right and were entitled to access the land to complete their operations.
The applicant was a holder of a mining right and was conducting open cast mining operations. Due to changes to the applicant’s mine, they submitted an application to have the EMP amended. The 1st respondent directed that the applicant was to submit a revised environmental liability report in order to cover the inherent risk related to the proposed project, thus they need to provide funding to cover a worst-case scenario.
The crux of the issue concerned the powers conferred on the 1st respondent to approve EMP’s and amended EMP’s. The court found that the applicant’s amended EMP would, if implemented successfully, result in the partial backfilling and flooding as part of its mine closure process, thus creating a dam to supply water to the local community and resulting in a practical closure of the mine.
The court found that the conditions imposed were unreasonable and irrational and that the 1st respondent failed to take cognizance of all relevant conditions. In addition, the decision to impose the conditions and require financial provisions as a worst-case scenario, was ultra vires (acting beyond one’s legal power or authority).
The court found that the 1st respondent committed an error of law when making his decision which he was not entitled to make within the powers vested in him.
Review upheld and decision set aside.
The court considered an application for eviction. The plaintiff averred that the defendants were in unlawful occupation of the property and that there was no agreement, either oral or written, giving them permission to occupy the property. In addition, it was argued that they had no right or title in the property.
The defendants argued that the land in question was concession land and that the deed of transfer was not authentic. The court found that, based on the evidence led, the title deed in question had been prepared and registered by the Deeds Registry and was thus valid.
The court found that although the first defendant alleged that she was born and raised on the property at the time when the land was under a concession, she failed to produce any evidence to support this contention. Thus, without any proof, the court held that her point was moot and could not be accepted.
The court held that based on a balance of probabilities, the property in dispute was a privately held property, validly supported by an authentic title deed in favour of the plaintiff. Accordingly, the defendants could be evicted from the property in question.
This application set out the test for determining the validity of an eviction order.
The applicant opposed an eviction order made under the Farm Dwellers Act of 1983 on grounds that it was unlawful. The respondents disputed the court’s jurisdiction. However, the court held that it had the jurisdiction to hear the matter and noted that its jurisdiction was only ousted as a court of first instance
In granting the order to the applicant, the court cited Hoageys Handicraft (PTY) Ltd and Another/Rose Marshall Vilane where the requirements for a lawful eviction in Swaziland were set out.
First, there must be a judgment of a court with jurisdiction to grant an order for eviction. Secondly, there must be a valid, warrant directing the Sheriff to evict the respondent from the premises. Thirdly, there must be a valid appointment and authorisation of the deputy sheriff, for the express purpose of executing a warrant of ejectment or eviction. Lastly, the execution action must be conducted as authorised in the warrant of ejectment or eviction.
The court granted the application, with an order of costs.
The matter required the Supreme Court’s advisory opinion in line with art 163(6) of the constitution. The reference concerned land administration and management powers of the National Land Commission versus those of the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development.
The main issue for determination was whether the Supreme Court had the jurisdiction to render an advisory opinion- on the powers and functions of the National Land Commission namely, those of the Ministry of Lands, Housing & Urban Development.
The court noted that it proceeded on a case by case basis in determining whether to exercise its advisory opinion jurisdiction. It was held that the instant reference met the admissibility requirement as set out in art 163(6) of the constitution but on condition that the court shall adopt a re-framed set of issues for consideration. However, the court found it premature to render the opinion at that moment and ordered the parties to undertake a constructive engagement towards reconciliation and a harmonious division of responsibility.
Judge Njoki SCJ dissented and held that the majority ruling was against the spirit of art 163 of the Constitution. Mainly because the questions posed were not subject of the court’s advisory opinion since they had no direct correlation with county government.
The plaintiff was claiming outstanding water use charges together with interest from the defendant.
The court determined if sea water can be owned or managed, and if so by which statutory body. The court held that art 260 of the Constitution defined land to include marine waters in the territorial sea and thus disagreed with the defendant’s argument that sea water is not capable of ownership. It was further held that the National Land Commission was the only body empowered to administer and manage the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the sea bed on behalf of the people of Kenya.
The court noted that the Water Act and the Water Resources Management Rules lacked specific provisions that included sea water as a water resource for the purpose of levying charges for the use of sea water. It was therefore held that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to levy charges for use of sea water.
Accordingly, the case was struck out with costs to the plaintiff.
The court considered a petition whereby the petitioner sought an order of certiorari to quash a Gazette Notice declaring his land to be forest land. The petitioner had entered into a sale agreement with the original owner of the land by which the parties agreed to a down payment upon successful application to the land control board. The Petitioner took immediate possession and contracted to pay the balance of the purchase price after the maize season. The application was made and rejected due to the Ministry of Natural Resource’s interest in the land. Subsequently, the land control board met and the petitioner’s application was granted, however, the land was transferred to the government and marked a forest.
The petitioner argued that during the dispute, its members were harassed and evicted from their farms, with their houses being torched.
The court found that there was no doubt that the petitioner had entered into a sale agreement. Further, the control board acted in a manner to deny the petitioner the land. The court found that based on a letter received from the Commissioner of Land, there was a clear acknowledgment of foul play in the manner in which the government came to buy the land. Further, the government had deprived the petitioner of its right to land and subjected its members to poverty. In conclusion, the court held that the land was to be placed in the name of the petitioner as it was the rightful and lawful owner.
This was a petition sought on the grounds that the petitioner’s rights to the protection of property and to fair administrative action under the Constitution had been violated. The case concerned a contractual agreement involving the petitioner and the state over a leasehold property which expired before the conclusion of the contract. The petitioner had, prior to the expiry filed an application for renewal of the lease. The court considered whether the state had demonstrated its intention to renew the lease and whether a legitimate expectation was created.
Secondly, the court considered whether the failure by the commissioner of lands to exercise its statutory duty to renew was a violation of the petitioner’s rights.
The court observed that by entering a contractual relationship, the state had demonstrated its intention to renew the lease and created a legitimate expectation on which the petitioner had relied. Furthermore, the court held that in terms of the Land Act, the lessee had the right of first refusal, and was therefore entitled to the extension of the lease.
The court held however, that it would be inappropriate for it to grant a lease renewal of 99 years as prayed, since the renewal term was discretionary. The court further noted that the fact that people had already settled on the land would create challenges in the future. In conclusion, the court ordered the parties to enter further negotiations to resolve the matter within 90 days failing which the court would then pronounce the final reliefs.
The court considered an application for mandamus to compel the government, the first respondent, to disclose agreements relating to the purchase of power, among others. The first respondent and Ethiopia entered into negotiations to develop a power plant. The petitioners argued that by agreeing to purchase electricity from Ethiopia, the respondents were acting in a manner that would deprive members of the affected communities of their livelihood, lifestyle and cultural heritage.
The court considered the following: whether it had jurisdiction to intervene and address the issues; whether the rights of the petitioners had been infringed; and what the respondents’ obligations were. The court held that the subject matter of the petition was an agreement between two sovereign states and the violations of rights were transboundary, thus giving the court jurisdiction to hear the matter.
It stated that the right to life, dignity, economic and social rights were indivisible and would have an adverse impact on the petitioners’ livelihood should the power plant be developed. However, without concrete evidence, the court could not find that their rights were violated. In terms of the access to environmental information, the court held that the State was obliged to encourage public participation, which was only possible if the public had all the information. The court found that the respondents ought to have conducted an environmental impact assessment to ensure that the project would not harm the public. Thus, their right to information was infringed. Accordingly, the court granted the order of a mandamus.
The court determined the threshold for public participation required for the coal-mining project. The court noted that there was no litmus test for determining when a court could conclude that there was adequate public participation. However, the court found that it is necessary to consider the bona fides of the public actor, the nature of the subject matter, the length and quality of the engagement and the number of mechanisms used to reach as many people as possible. On consideration of these factors, the court held that the government complied with the requirement for public participation in the project.
Secondly, the court noted that the non-involvement of the Kitui County Government in the Coal mining project was explained by the fact that the County Government was not in existence at the time of the award of the Concessioning Tender.
Thirdly, the court found the apprehension of deprivation of property to be speculative as the Government had indicated that it would compensate and resettle the affected parties.
Fourthly, the court held that the petitioners could not invoke the court’s jurisdiction to question either the procedural propriety or substantive merits of the procurement process since they did not follow the procurement procedures.
Fifthly, the court found it unnecessary to determine the issue on violation of the right to information, since the Government had supplied a copy of the Benefits Sharing Agreement to all the parties. Finally, the court held that the petitioners failed to prove environmental harm.
Accordingly, the petition was dismissed.
The court considered an application by which the applicants sought an order declaring that their right to life had been contravened by forcible eviction and by settlement of other persons on their land. The applicants were members of the Ogiek community who had been living in East Mau Forest for decades, as food gatherers and hunters. Upon the introduction of colonial rule, the land was declared a forest, however, no land was set aside for the applicants.
The court set out the issues as follows: whether the members of the community had recognizable rights arising from their occupation of the forest; whether in the circumstances of the case, their rights had been infringed by their eviction and allocation of other persons; and whether the settlement was ultra vires.
The court found that the right to a livelihood did not have a definition and could be included in the right to life. Thus, their livelihood was directly dependent on forest resources to sustain their way of life. Further, the court held that the applicants were a minority group who had lost their access to land and their right to live in the forests which was key to their livelihood, thus their rights had been infringed.Finally, the court found that there were significant irregularities made during the allocation of land, thus the settlement scheme was ultra vires and the applicants were therefore entitled to the relief sought.
Accordingly, the application was upheld.
The appellants appealed against the decision of the High Court to dismiss an application for judicial review. The appellants sought orders of certiorari and prohibition against the County council to set apart a portion of land for the purposes of a boat landing base and the subsequent granting of a lease to the third respondents. The court had to consider several issues including: whether judicial review was the proper avenue for nullifying a title which was granted by law; whether a person other than the ministry in charge of forest could challenge an allocation of land; and what the correct status of the land in question was.
The court observed that the remedy of judicial review under Kenyan law was not wide enough to accommodate a party who was not just aggrieved by the process but sought to ventilate other issues. The court however concluded that there was no material dispute of fact, and the case could be decided on the papers. The court held that the Commissioner of lands had no power to grant more land than what the statute empowered him to do and that he had no power to set aside public land. On the locus standi of the appellants, the court held that the land which was allocated was a beach in front of the appellants’ pieces of land which tourists and local villagers used. There was therefore substantial interest by the appellants in the matter.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the order of the High court dismissing the appellants’ notice of motion was set aside.
This was an appeal from the High Court to the Supreme Court. The case concerned a ministerial notice stating that nuclear energy prospecting licenses regarding certain areas will not be provided. The appellant was allegedly an aspiring applicant. He thus felt aggrieved with the notice.
In the High Court, it was held that the appellant lacked legal capacity to challenge the notice as the notice did not create any triable issue. Aggrieved, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.
Thus, the main issue for determination was whether the respondent's notice exempting certain areas from being prospected for nuclear resources was unconstitutional. The appellant’s argument was that the denial of the prospecting license violated his constitutional right to work.
In response, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision, but it disagreed with the High Court that the respondent lacked the legal capacity. According to the Supreme Court, the appellant would have been successful if the minister had no statutory powers to issue the notice or if the process was procedural. However, the minister had such powers under section 122(1) of the Mineral (Prospecting and Mining) Act of 1992. Consequently, the Court held that it cannot order the minister to issue the license if the notice is still in existence. Also, the Supreme Court held that the constitutional provision on the right to work does not mean that people can conduct mining activities without being regulated given the environmental challenges.
Following this, the appellant's case was dismissed with costs.
This case concerned parties who had competing interests (one being a luxury tourist lodge and the other one was a copper mine) over the same piece of land. They were undergoing litigation, which included a pending action before another court, in which the first and second respondent were seeking the eviction of the applicant from the property which they sold to the applicant in 2002.
The court considered an application to review and set aside a decision to grant the second respondent an environmental clearance certificate, as well as an interdict restraining them from taking any further action from using the mining rights already granted.
The applicant had earlier stated that they would launch urgent proceedings once they become aware that first and second respondent intend commencing mining activities. However, subsequent communication showed that there were no imminent mining activities. On this basis, the court found that the matter was not inherently urgent, and the application was therefore struck from the roll.
The court considered an application for a mandamus by the applicant, as a result of the respondents having applied for the consolidation and rezoning of 2 plots of land. The respondents had their application conditionally approved upon submitting an engineer’s drawing for the erection of retaining walls as part of flood protection and to create 54 client accessible parking bays.
The court considered if there was a contravention of s 44(5) of the applicant’s town planning scheme in accordance with the Town Planning Ordinance No 18 of 1954 as amended. Without drawing plans being submitted to the applicant for approval, the respondents admitted that a temporary corrugated iron wall was erected on the riverbank which was next to the two properties. On their own admission, the respondents did not create the 54 accessible parking bays.
The court found that the respondents failed to adhere to the condition of their approved application, so they were ordered to remove the illegally constructed corrugated iron wall, to submit an engineer’s drawing for the erection of the retaining walls to be constructed on the properties, within three months of the order. They were also ordered to construct the retaining wall within six months from the date of the approval by the applicant of the engineering drawing, as well as to remove all building materials and rubble from one plot in order to create 54 accessible parking bays on one of the properties. Respondents were ordered to pay applicant’s costs.