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 court considered an appeal against a judgment dismissing the appellant’s exception.
The appellant was a property development company and sought to develop property in low-lying areas adjacent to the Disa river. In order to develop these properties the appellant began to lift these properties to four meters above sea level by dumping waste matter and filling in on the properties. This resulted in the 2nd respondent issuing directives to the appellant in terms of section 31A of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1989 (“ECA”), which required the appellant, at its own expense, to engage a freshwater ecologist and other environmental impacts of their actions.
The appellant complied with the directive but alleged that the directive had prevented it from undertaking any further development on the properties that were below the 1:100-year flood line, as well as the properties that were within the wetland boundary as surveyed by the ecologist.
The court below held that section 34(1) of the ECA provided a right to claim for compensation where loss suffered by a claimant arose from limitations placed on the purposes for which land may be used.
This court found that when the directives were issued, the constitutional and statutory obligations to prevent harm to the environment were met. Thus, section 34 of the ECA could not have been directed at providing compensation for actions taken under section 31A as those provisions regulate harmful activities against the environment.
The applicant, sought to review and set aside the 5th respondent’s decision on 3 grounds 1) it failed to adhere to the audi alteram partem principle, 2) the decision was unreasonable, and 3) there was a perception of bias.
The applicant was formed to manage the Long Beach development on behalf of individual members, which gave them the powers to make applications for environmental authorizations.
The audi alteram partem principle entitles affected parties to make representations. The applicant contended that it was denied this opportunity when the 5th respondent made its decision.
The court found that there is a distinction between reasons advanced in support of a decision and concerns that may relate to matters which are not properly addressed. Held, that an uncertainty suggests a lack of clarity to enable the decision maker to apply his mind. However, if an uncertainty is created, the decision maker should afford the applicant an opportunity to answer, and settle those concerns. The court found that the fifth respondent’s actions, in not allowing the applicant to respond, denied it of its right curtail uncertainties and failed to adhere to the audi alteram partem principle.
On the basis of the applicant’s additional grounds, it was found that the arguments for unreasonableness and bias were not sustainable.
The court set aside the 5th respondent’s decision and referred the matter back, to allow the applicant to respond to any uncertainties.
This was a judicial review on the administrative decision of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (“DAFF”) to refuse a permit for the removal of 10 protected trees (white Milkwood trees) to build a new residence.
The court considered whether it was proper for the applicant to seek an order to compel the DAFF to make a decision it had not taken during a review. The court applied the rule that requires the court to exercise its judicial discretion to set aside an administrative decision only when considering the consequences of a decision that was already taken.
The court also considered whether the decision was made by an authorised person. The court applied the provisions of s15 of the Natural Forest Act which prohibits the disturbance (removal) of protected trees without a license or exemption from the minister. It also considered s7 of the that allowed the minister to delegate exercise of his powers. The court found that the decision was made by a forester who was not authorised to make the decision. The court found that alone to be decisive of the matter and set aside the decision by the DAFF.
The court also made an order as to costs to be paid on a joint and several bases by the respondents.
The court considered whether the State High Court had jurisdiction to entertain a matter about mines and minerals.
The court held that according to s 251(1)(n) of the Constitution as amended, the Federal High Court had jurisdiction about mining operations.
The court found that the statement of claim showed that the cause of action accrued in 1996; therefore, the law that was in existence at that time is applicable. Further, the court found that the construction, operation and maintenance of an oil pipeline by a holder of oil prospecting license is an act of mining operations. The facts of the case therefore fell within s 230(1)(0) of the 1979 Constitution. The trial court lacked jurisdiction.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal.
The Fees and Charges Act (the act) calculated the plaintiff’s rent for five mining leases. The plaintiff challenged the Minister of Finance’s authority to amend the legislation.
Issue one: whether the Administrator of Stool Lands had any role to play in fixing annual ground rents. The court held that the Administrator did not fix the rates, but wrote to demand payment.
Issue two: whether the administrator was part of a review team that recommended the adjustments, amounting to prescribing annual ground rent. The administrator provided an advisory opinion with no legal force.
Issue three: whether the grant of power to the Minister of Finance was unconstitutional. A schedule forms part of an act. Subordinate legislation cannot amend an act; however, this rule is not invariable regarding schedules. Acts may empower another to revise the contents of a schedule, and this power must be expressly conferred by Parliament. It was found that it was.
Issue four: whether or not the Fees and Charges Instruments contravened the act and the Constitution. The Minister of Finance was empowered to amend the schedule in fixing fees and charges; however the inclusion of the administrator in the amended list was inconsistent with the Constitution, and void to the extent of this inclusion
Issue five: whether the power conferred on the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources was transferred to the Minister of Finance. The court held that no such transfer of power occurred.
Issue six: whether the failure by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources to exercise the power conferred on him in the act violated the Constitution. The Minister of Mines was empowered in terms of the act; however the parties incorrectly cited the Minister of Lands.
The Minister of Mines was ordered to fix the fees and charges under the act.
This was an action for damages for assault and battery that led to the removal of one of the plaintiff’s eye; following a beating by the defendant’s guards when the plaintiff was caught stealing on the defendant’s property. The plaintiff also prayed for costs of the action.
It was common cause that the plaintiff was cutting down trees for firewood without permission at the defendant’s estate; and that the plaintiff ran away from the defendant’s agents. The plaintiff averred that one of the defendant’s agents appeared in front of him and threw his baton stick at him, hitting and injuring his eye. The defendant denied the plaintiff’s version of facts and averred that the plaintiff stumbled and fell onto his shovel, thereby injuring himself.
The court, therefore, had to determine whether the plaintiff was entitled to the damages sought.
The court held that in a civil case like this one, the burden was on the plaintiff to prove his case on balance of probabilities. The plaintiff argued that he satisfied this requirement, as the defendant’s witnesses contradicted themselves. The court, however, noted that all of the defendant’s witnesses concurred that they were not carrying baton sticks on the material day and that the plaintiff did not challenge this.
Consequently, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish that the injuries he sustained were caused by the defendant’s agents. The plaintiff’s action, therefore, failed.
This was a dispute over land ownership and related claims to reversionary interest compensation. Both parties sought orders declaring that they were allodial owners of the land in dispute according to tradition and customs, and that they were entitled to receive the reversionary interest compensation.
The court determined whether the allodial title to the land in dispute vested in individual families or in the appellant as the Tindana for and on behalf of the whole community.
The court held that the best way of resolving conflicts arising from traditional evidence concerning ownership of land is to test it against recent acts to see which traditional version is supported. The court found that it is widely accepted, among legal writers, scholars and practitioners, that the Tindana is the landlord or landowner. Additionally, the report of the committee to investigate a land dispute between the Tindonsobligo and the Kalbeo people explicitly stated that the Tindana was the allodial owner of land, while the people were usufucts (settler/farmers).
The court noted that the defendants Tindana status was not in dispute, and concluded that the appellant was the the allodial owner of Kalbeo land and held it in in trust for community.
The court considered a summons to strike out a notice of appeal. The respondent, as applicant in this case, applied to the court for an order that the notice of appeal be struck out with costs on the grounds that it was obviously frivolous, vexation and an abuse of process. The respondent (applicant), contended that the appeal was not competent as it purported to bring up matters that were not raised in the court below for the assessment hearing.
The court considered whether the appeal was admissible or whether it constituted an abuse of process and should be struck out. It was held that the respondent (applicant) needed to satisfy the court that the grounds of appeal were obviously frivolous, vexation and an abuse of process.
The court found that the appellant was not challenging the judgement or liability, but merely the quantum of damages arrived at following the assessment of damages. This, the court held, could not be interpreted as an attempt to re-litigate the matter, as the respondent (applicant) alleged. The court, therefore, concluded that it could not be said with any degree of certainty that the appeal was obviously frivolous, vexation and an abuse of process.
Accordingly, the application failed and each party was ordered to bear its own costs.
The court considered an application for the continuation of an interlocutory injunction which was granted to restrain the defendants from entering, cultivating, occupying or developing on the plaintiff’s land. The plaintiff’s father gave him customary land, which he cleared himself and the land was later subdivided. The first defendant alleged that he held a right to the land on account of the growing population of the family.
The court held that an interlocutory injunction is a temporary and exceptional remedy which was available before the rights of the parties had been finally determined. The first issue for the court to determine was whether there was a triable issue. It found that there were pertinent questions regarding the land that had to be determined at trial. The court then considered the issue of compensability, that is, the extent to which damages could be an adequate remedy. The court found that every piece of land had its own unique value and damages would be an inadequate remedy and as the value was difficult to quantify.
The court found that if the interlocutory injunction was not extended the plaintiff would suffer irreparable harm and justice demanded that the land remain intact until the action was determined. Accordingly, the application succeeded.