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
This was an appeal to the High Court against the decision of a magistrate to dismiss the appellant’s claim which concerned a dispute over a customary piece of land. While the appellant stated that the part of the land in dispute was his, the respondent maintained otherwise.
The issue for determination was whether the land belonged to the respondent or the appellant. The court held that in civil cases, the evidence was on a balance of probability. As such, the respondent’s evidence that he was the one given the land by the chief carried more weight and was therefore convincing. The court further held that customary lands were owned communally, which meant that the chief did not own the land as his belonging. Therefore, the court stated that the chief did not have the power to deprive one person of land and give it to another. In conclusion, the court upheld the decision of the court below and accordingly dismissed the appeal.
This was a preliminary application for a stay of hearing in order for the matter to be referred to arbitration owing to the existence of an arbitration clause in a Royalties Agreement (RA), entered into in relation to the parties’ mining operations. The main matter involved an application for the discharge of leave to move for judicial review on a decision by the respondents to cancel a mining licence.
The court considered whether the judicial review proceedings should have been stayed owing to the existence of an arbitration clause in the RA; and whether the preliminary objection was or was not caught by the provisions of s 6(1) of the Arbitration Act.
The court noted that the main issues for determination revolved around two agreements: the Mining License (ML) and the (RA). The court found that the two agreements ought to have been applied as one agreement. This was mainly because the RA, was an agreement made pursuant to a provision in the ML, and secondly, because the RA provisions were the very ground upon which the ML was purportedly terminated.
The court therefore held that the arbitration clause was applicable. However, the court went on to hold that s 6(1) of the Act precluded the applicant from referring the matter arbitration after it had taken steps in the proceedings or delivered pleadings. The court found that the evidence was clear that the applicant had taken steps in the proceedings. Accordingly, the applicant could not rely on the arbitration clause.
The court considered an application for the continuation of an order of injunction to restrain the defendants from trespassing or encroaching on the plaintiff’s land, pending the determination of the plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiff alleged that she purchased customary land from the daughter of its previous owner. The plaintiff enjoyed possession of the land, until the defendants alleged that the land was their grandfather’s and the seller had no authority to sell it. Although, the plaintiff argued that she had ownership of the land, the defendants argued that customary land could not be sold or bought, thus she had no right to protect.
The court considered the temporary injunction and whether the plaintiff had disclosed a triable claim. It found that where the applicant had disclosed a good claim to the right, the court would then consider whether damages was an adequate remedy. The court found that the plaintiff’s use of the word bought was incorrect, stating that she parted with money in exchange to acquire the right to use and occupy the land, she however, had a triable right to protect. The court held that the remedy of damages was not adequate as the land was unique.
In conclusion, the court found that the balance of convenience favoured the status quo in protecting the land, used and occupied by the plaintiff until the outcome of the trial and upheld the application
The applicant sought various reliefs concerning a project to abstract and pump water from Lake Malawi by and under the watch of the respondents. The judge considered the main issue to be an application for leave to apply for judicial review. The second issue was whether the applicant and the Malawi Law Society (MLS), an interested party), had locus standi in the matter in light of s 26(1)(d) of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners’ Act (LELPA).
The applicant contended that the matters that it raised were matters of public interest and were intended to protect the public on an issue that directly touched on the law, namely compliance with various legal processes relating to environmental protection before a project of the nature of the instant one is commenced. The judge held that prima facie, this was a matter of public interest and that the MLS had a legal duty to take measures intended at protecting the public, within the meaning of s 26(1)(d) of the LELPA. The judge was also satisfied by the applicant’s representations that there was no alternative remedy for the applicant in the circumstances to secure appropriate reliefs. The court was satisfied that the applicant had an arguable case and therefore granted the applicant leave to apply for judicial review. The court further ordered the first respondent to make available to the applicant the contract with the contractor and other relevant environmental information.
This was an appeal against the decision of a magistrate to order the appellant to vacate a disputed piece of customary land. The appellant applied for a stay of execution of judgment pending appeal.
The two issues for the court’s determination were, whether the appellant was duly allocated the piece of land according to customary law, and whether he had the right of usage and occupation. The court applied the burden and standard of proof based on a balance of probabilities, and ss 2, 25 and 26 of the Land Act which regarding title and ownership of customary land.
The court found out that the respondent had left the land unattended for a period of 13 years and, although this did not remove his right of usage and occupation, the status quo could not be maintained. The court observed that, the land was lying idle when it was allocated by the Group village Headman to the appellant who in turn redeveloped it by building a house, a grocery store and planted trees and fruits. The court held that the respondent sat on his rights and allowed the appellant to develop the land. The court also found that respondent’s conduct had been unreasonable during the time that the appellant developed the land.
In conclusion, the judge held that the appellant was duly allocated the piece of customary land according to law and that he then had permanent rights of usage and occupation. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded with costs.
This was a mediation report regarding an action commenced by the plaintiffs against the installation of a water pump and other construction works on what was believed to be customary land. The plaintiffs sought to restrain the defendant from interfering with their customary rights on the land. They contended that the water pump installation plan violated their right to the use and enjoyment of their customary land. The matter was set for mediation.
The issue for resolution was whether the project interfered with the customary land held by the plaintiffs.
An agreement was reached by the parties to the effect that the project was located in an intersection of the road reserve which was public land pursuant to the Waterworks Act and that the defendants had obtained the requisite authority to install the water pump and related works. The proposed construction of the water pump was therefore not in violation of any customary rights for as long as it was restricted within the road reserve. Accordingly, the matter was resolved.
The court considered an application for a declaratory order, declaring that the applicants had a right to live in a quiet environment, free from any noise pollution that can cause annoyance, inconvenience and interference with their comfort or exercise of their rights. The applicants attempted to rely on the rules of practice to ensure their order was granted by means of summary judgment.
The defence argued that the procedure for a summary judgment was not covered by the available High Court rules, and the absence of new rules created a lacunae (not provided for in statute).
The court found that in terms of the General Interpretation Act, s13 provides for a mechanism to avoid a lacunae in the event that a written law has been repealed.
The court considered s14 of the Act, wherein it states that where there is a “written law which is repealed or re-enacted with or without modification, any provision of any other written law, then unless a contrary intention appears, shall remain in force.”
The court found that the rules of Supreme Court are subsidiary legislation and that by repealing the summary judgment rule, it did not automatically repeal the rule of the supreme court unless they are replaced.
Application dismissed with costs.