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 an appeal against the validity of an order to the Land Valuation Board to assess the compensation payable in respect of buildings and farms belonging to inhabitants of an old village.
The facts of this case were that the appellant, a mining company, requested the respondents and other inhabitants of a village, which adjoined its mining area, to vacate the village and paid them compensation for their buildings, which were later demolished. Section 71 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 1986, provided for compensation for disturbances to owners and occupiers of lands affected by mineral operations. The appellant argued that this compensation was limited to areas within the mineral operations and that these areas were not land designated within its mining lease.
The Supreme Court considered the lawfulness of the board’s decision to award further compensation under s71 of the act. It found that since the mining operations of the appellant affected the owners or occupiers of land they were entitled to statutory compensation. The court stated that whereas compensation for the buildings of the respondents was settled by agreement with the appellants, as permitted under s71(3) of the act, compensation for the disturbance of their farming activities at the old village was mandatory under the act.
The court, however, stated that the lower courts came to the right conclusion but their reasons were not sound in law. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed but the reasons were substituted for the Supreme Court’s decision.
The court considered an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, staying the proceedings of the High Court.
The origin of the appeal was an application for a mandatory injunction, against the respondent, for disturbing the “natural calm flow” of the Volta River, into the sea, while executing their contractual obligations (marine reclamation). The Respondent appealed 3 interlocutory applications in the High Court, which appeals were still pending.
The stay was granted to the respondents following an application for judgment to be entered against them.
The appellant raised six grounds of appeal, however the court held that the determination of one main issue would dispose of the appeal. Thus, the court had to determine whether the Court of Appeal erred in granting the stay of proceedings.
The court noted that all the interlocutory orders were on appeal before the Court of Appeal. The court found that the court of appeal was right to halt the proceedings, since the determination of the interlocutory orders could have a serious effect on the case before the High Court.
It was further noted that an order staying proceedings is interlocutory, and discretionary and should not be interfered with unless it might result in serious injustice. The court found that the appellant failed to demonstrate that the discretion exercised would result to injustice.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The matter dealt with coal mining operations occurring adjacent to a public park in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The first and second applicants were a registered trust pursuing environmental causes and an association of members of communities affected by open-cast mining in the area respectively. The applicants, in the public interest or alternatively affected parties, sought an interdict to shut the mine down completely for being in contravention of s 24 and s 38 of the South African Constitution. The relief sought was subsequently altered to an application to prevent illegal mining. Of the nine respondents cited, the first respondent, a mining company opposed the grant of any relief against it.
The court considered whether the first respondent complied with various national, provincial and local government legislative instruments. The court noted that the applicants were not entirely sure if the interdict they sought was final or interim. The court concluded that the applicants failed to make out a proper case for the relief as claimed, since they failed to put up convincing evidence to support their contentions that the first respondent was mining unlawfully and without the requisite authorisations. The court found that the applicants had not afforded the concerned authorities the opportunity to fully investigate their complaints before deciding to institute proceedings. The court cited various statutes that created regulatory authorities which were empowered to enforce compliance with the statutes they administered. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an urgent application for an order interdicting the first respondent from carrying on mining operations on the applicants’ mineral claims. At some point, the applicants and the first respondent had business dealings involving minerals from those claims. The respondent then went on to register mining claims over a piece of land which included the first applicant’s mining claims. The respondent argued that the matter was not urgent, and that the relief sought was not competent as it was final in effect.
The court considered whether the applicants had established a right to the relief sought. The court observed that the relief sought was an interim interdict, the requirements for which were: a clear right; irreparable harm; balance of convenience in favour of granting the relief, and no other satisfactory remedy. The court found that the respondent intended to mine on the applicants claim, and although the mining hadn’t commenced, the applicants could not wait until it acted and had established the prejudice likely to be suffered.
In determining the balance of convenience, the court weighed the prejudice to the applicant if the interdict was not granted against the harm to the respondent if the relief was granted. In this instance, as the mining activities were not being carried on yet, there was no prejudice to the respondent. Accordingly, the court found that the requirements for the interdict were met and the application succeeded.
This was an application for an interdict to prohibit mining activities at West Nicholson mine and a further order relating to the processing, sale of and distribution of gold ore mined by the applicants.
The applicants were members of the West Nicholson Youth in Mining Association. The 2nd respondent offered to grant a tribute to the association to mine gold ore and three representatives were appointed by the association to negotiate with the 2nd respondent. After operations had begun, the three representatives along with the 3rd respondent, a third party, unilaterally implemented a profit sharing scheme which gave 50 percent of the proceeds to the four of them.
The 3rd respondent opposed the application contending that it did not satisfy the requirements of an interdict because the applicants had no prima facie right.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether or not the applicants had satisfied the requirements of an interdict. The court found that the applicants had proved that they were members of the association and had therefore established a prima facie right to the mining benefits granted by the agreement. The court further held that there was a well-grounded apprehension of irreparable harm to the applicants if the interim relief was not granted and that this had been clearly proved by the applicants.
Accordingly, the court granted the interim interdict as prayed.
The court considered an application to set aside the National Water Authority Regulations and tariffs on the ground that they were ultra vires and violated the applicants’ rights.
The applicants’ business operations involved sugar-cane growing and sugar processing. They concluded two agreements with the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), which related to the supply of water. It was a term of the agreement that the parties would, together, review charges for raw water, and should they fail to agree, the respondent would fix the prices. Subsequently, ZINWA addressed a letter advising the applicants of their intention to review the charges. The respondent unilaterally increased the tariffs and failed to notify the applicants. The respondent argued that in terms of the ZINWA Act, she had the authority to impose tariffs for water charges and that the regulations did not violate the applicants’ rights.
The court considered whether the respondent had acted lawfully in imposing the water tariffs. It found that the government reviewed the water charges, and not ZINWA which was lawfully established to review the tariffs in as far as the applicant was concerned.
The court found that the respondent could not unilaterally increase water tariffs, unless ZINWA had made application to it to justify the increase. In this case, the respondent failed to notify the applicants, nor did she give them an opportunity to respond. The court concluded that the respondent acted ultra vires by increasing the tariffs and her actions were unlawful. Accordingly, the application was upheld
The court considered a criminal appeal, where the applicants had been charged for contravening s7(1)(a) or (b) of the Communal Land Act, by occupying or using communal land without lawful authority. The applicants pleaded guilty and were convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $5000 or 30 days in prison. The appellants appealed the conviction on the ground that the court committed an irregularity by failing to proceed in terms of the correct procedure.
They contended that by entering a guilty plea, the court had a duty to safeguard the fair trial rights of the accused by adopting a procedure which was most likely to suggest a defence where there was one.
The court considered whether the appellant’s conviction was lawful. It observed that with unrepresented accused persons, there was the ever-present likelihood that out of ignorance of the law, a person would admit to charges of a complex nature out of a desire to draw sympathy of the police or the courts and the onus was upon the court to choose a procedure which would have given the appellants a possible defence.
The court found that the conviction was wrong and remitted the matter back to the lower court. In addition, the court below would be required to take cognizance of s 16 of the Act which required that following a conviction, an order for eviction be granted. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded.
The applicant, had received a letter from the Secretary for Mines and Mining Development alerting them that their special grants for mining had expired and they had to cease all mining activities and vacate the covered mining areas. The Minister further issued a press statement on the consolidation of all diamond mining activities in the grant areas.
The applicant averred that the above decisions had prejudicial effect on it which also violated its property rights.
The respondents alluded that the application was improperly brought before the court as it appeared to be a response to the judgment of the High Court which the applicant had previously lodged but never appealed and that the cause of action was res judicata and that the avoidance principle applied here. The court, therefore, had to decide on these three main points.
The court held that the appeal had been disguised as a case concerning constitutional points and should have been brought in terms of s167(5)(b) of the Constitution.
It held that although the basis of the application had changed with the introduction of the constitutional question, the effect of the relief sought remained the same.
The court also held that the bulk of the applicant’s case was on right to just administrative action which was protected under the Administrative Justice Act which had sufficient grounds to deal with the rights they alleged had been infringed.
The matter was dismissed with costs.
This was an application for an order for spoliation. The applicants claimed that they had been unlawfully dispossessed of their quiet and peaceful possession of their property by the first respondent. The first respondent contended that he was issued with a prospecting licence by the second respondent on the same land and that he entered the property on the strength of the authority from second respondent. The applicants alleged that the first respondent entered their land by cutting a fence and causing damage to their property.
The court considered whether or not there had been a spoliation and whether the applicants were entitled to relief. The court established that the first respondent unlawfully deprived the first applicant of its possession of the quarry stone site and that this was an unlawful invasion of the property as the land was private property.
The court noted that the first respondent had not raised any of the recognised defences in an action for spoliation. The court found that the first respondent intended to take over the quarry site by forcibly removing them applicants from the quarry site without following due process as he did not possess a court order to justify his intended action.
Accordingly, the court held that the requirements for an order for spoliation had been met and ordered the respondents to return the applicant’s status quo prior to the spoliation.
Civil Procedure ̶ Application by Appellant for an order ejecting the Respondents from the land situate at Mhlaleni, directing the Respondents to demolish all structures they have constructed on the land and interdicting Respondent’s from carrying out any activities on the land – Dispute over the territorial jurisdiction over the area where land is situate – Plea of lis pendens raised by the Respondents - whether matter pending determination by the High Court or the traditional authorities – High Court upholds plea of lis pendens and orders status quo prevailing to be maintained pending determination by appropriate authority – Whether High Court erred in so holding – Whether High Court has jurisdiction to entertain matters relating to land pending before traditional authorities having regard to Section 151 (3) (b) of the Constitution - Held that High Court has no original jurisdiction to entertain matters in which a Swazi Court has jurisdiction, but High Court has only revisional and appellate juridiction as provided by Section 151 (3) of the Constitution - where a matter is pending or has been determined by the traditional authorities, the High Court must refer the matter back to those authorities for determination or enforcement – Decision of High Court upheld, and – Appeal dismissed with costs.
Civil Procedure ̶ Action by Appellant claiming damages for negligence – Bus conductor throws bottle under bus from which the Appellant has just alighted – Bus stamples over the stump of crushed bottle – Part of the bottle springs up and hits eye of the Appellant resulting in injury – Respondent raises plea of absolution from the instance on ground that the injury was not foreseeable – court a quo upholds the plea on ground that the bus conductor was not negligent as the damage caused was neither reasonably foreseeable nor preventable – whether court a quo applied proper test for absolution from the first instance – On appeal, held that on the evidence adduced the conduct of the bus conductor was negligent and the damage caused to the Appellant was reasonably foreseeable and preventable – Appeal allowed with costs – Matter remitted back to the court a quo, to hear the Respondent’s case and determine the case on the merits.
The appellant in this matter claimed that the respondent had encroached onto her land. The lower court found for the respondent and dismissed the claim. The appellant argued that the learned Magistrate erred in law and fact in ordering that the defendant acquired the land in dispute through adverse possession yet there was evidence that the appellant protested the defendant's conduct and further that the magistrate had erred in law in disregarding the laws of inheritance.
The court held that the evidence rendered by the appellant, was insufficient to counter the argument on adverse possession. The defendant and his father had used this land for over 35 years without any disturbance legally for growing trees. The court held that if a person occupied land without the sanction of the owner for 12 years, he was deemed to have acquired it through adverse possession. The court went on to hold that the claim had nothing to do with distribution of intestate property. The pleadings merely spoke of the respondent’s encroachment into her land and nothing to do with intestate succession. That being the case, the lower court would have erred if it had decided the case on the basis of the act when inheritance was not an issue before the lower court.
Accordingly, the case was dismissed.
This was a claim for negligence and damages caused to the plaintiffs’ houses by road construction works that were carried out by the first defendant with the authority of the second defendant. The second defendant argued that the action was statute barred and that it could not be held liable for the first defendant’s negligence since they were independent contractors.
The court noted that the plaintiffs accepted that the action against the second defendant was statute barred but argued that the second defendant waived its right to a remedy under the act. The court held that the joinder of the second defendant to the proceedings was improper. It was further held that the waiver which was not pleaded lacked merit.
Secondly, the court determined whether the first defendant was negligent. The court noted that an action of negligence required the plaintiffs to prove that there was a duty of care owed to them, a breach of the duty and damages suffered thereof. The court held that the first defendant owed the plaintiffs a duty of care not to subject their houses to a risk of damage. However, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to prove a breach of the duty, since there was no evidence that the construction was done without risk assessment and the plaintiffs had been compensated for the damages.
The issue of the second defendant’s liability was found to be redundant, since the action was already dismissed on the basis of the first and second issues.
The matter dealt with an application for an order for the continuation of an interlocutory injunction arising from a dispute regarding encroachment onto the claimant’s land by the defendant.
The court considered whether it should grant an order for the continuation of the interlocutory injunction or discharge the interlocutory injunction.
An interlocutory injunction is a temporary and exceptional remedy which is available before the rights of the parties have been finally determined. In any application for an interlocutory injunction, the court first needs to determine whether there is a serious issue to be tried. If not, the application fails in limine. In this case, it was clear from reading the sworn statements that the facts herein were in dispute and raised pertinent questions to be determined by the court at a full trial.
The court then considered whether damages would constitute an adequate remedy. It held that damages would have been an inadequate remedy in this application.
It was the court’s view that the balance of convenience tilted in favour of allowing the continuation of the interlocutory injunction.
Accordingly, continuation of interlocutory injunction granted.
The matter dealt with an application for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant from entering, cultivating and burning bricks on the claimant's farm lands pending the hearing and determination of this matter or until a further order of the court.
The court considered whether it should grant an order of interlocutory injunction or dismiss the application. An interlocutory injunction is a temporary and exceptional remedy which is available before the rights of the parties have been finally determined.
When considering an application for injunctions, the following principles apply:
1) as long as there is a serious question to be tried, a prima facie case does not have to be shown;
2) whether the plaintiff would be adequately compensated by damages for the loss if they succeed;
3) whether the defendant would be adequately compensated if the plaintiff fails;
4) consider all matters relevant to the balance of convenience;
5) consider the relative strength of each party’s case.
In this case, according to the claimants' own evidence, each of them received a court order to the effect that the judgement of the First Grade Magistrate Court sitting at Mulanje extended to the claimants. Therefore, the court order had to continue to apply until, if at all, a contrary decision was made in the substantive action.
Application for interlocutory injunction dismissed.
This was an application by the plaintiff claiming compensation for the land which was compulsorily acquired by the defendant. The plaintiff made a further claim for compensation for the destruction of 390 banana plants. The court had to decide on the quantum of damages payable for the loss of use and occupation of land and the loss of the 390 banana plants.
The court first dealt with the general principles guiding compensation and considered the applicable legal provisions. The court held that the main principle underpinning damages was restitution. In addition, the court listed several grounds under which compensation can be calculated. These grounds included a calculation of compensation based on the market value of the land; compensation based on the depreciation of value, if only a part of the land was expropriated; disturbance compensation among other guiding principles.
In awarding judgment for the plaintiff, the court considered the nature of the deprivation and concluded that such deprivation was permanent. The plaintiff was awarded MK3, 812, 000.00 as compensation and the respondent was ordered to pay the costs.
This was an action for damages for nuisance and trespass against the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that he was the owner of a property on which the defendant erected a 55m antenna in a brick enclosure along with an unsilenced diesel generator which produced noise. He further claimed that the defendant erected a girder with red flashing lights and positioned two 24-hour security guards at the enclosure. The defendant contended that the property was part of a forest reserve for which it had obtained a licence from the Department of Forestry.
The court considered whether or not the defendant was liable in trespass and nuisance and whether or not the plaintiff was entitled to the damages claimed.
The court found that the plaintiff held a 99-year lease over his property and that the licence granted to the defendant by the Department of Forestry did not specify the exact site for the location of the antenna. It was therefore held that the licence did not justify the trespass. The court concluded that the defendant was liable for trespass on the plaintiff’s land.
In determining the issue on nuisance, the court noted that the plaintiff did not plead the particulars of the alleged nuisance by the defendant and that he did not adduce evidence to prove the allegation of the nuisance. As such, the claim for nuisance was dismissed.
Accordingly, the court awarded the plaintiff damages for trespass.
This was an appeal against a decision of a magistrate to dismiss the appellant’s claim over a piece of customary land which he claimed was unlawfully in the possession of the second respondent, his son. The appellant had left the village for a long time and upon returning found that the first respondent had constructed a home on his land. The appellant instructed the first respondent to vacate land but he refused and proceeded to sell the land to the second respondent. The appellant told the court below that he inherited the piece of land from his father. The lower court found that the appellant had failed to adduce enough evidence to show that the land belonged to him.
The court had to determine the following: which party had the right of occupation of the land; whether the land was lawfully transferred to the second respondent and whether a permanent injunction could be granted restraining the appellant or the respondents from interfering with the land in question.
The court held that although the land had been given to the first respondent customarily, chiefs must be guided by the law specifically, the Constitution and it was against the law to deprive any person the right to use and occupy customary land without any justification at law. It held that indefinite individual usage and occupation of customary land was therefore permissible under the laws of Malawi and the subsequent transfer was legal. Accordingly, the court upheld the lower court ruling.
The court considered a petition declaring that the violation of Article 42 of the Constitution of Kenya resulted in a denial of the right to a clean and healthy environment, as well as an injunction to have a waste disposal site relocated.
The court found that the main issues for determination were 1) whether the respondents’ actions violated or threatened the petitioners’ right to a clean and healthy environment, and 2) whether they are deserving of the relief sought.
The court found the right to a clean and healthy environment to be a fundamental right and held that the duty to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations is imposed on the State and every person.
The court considered various provisions of the Constitution, wherein it argued that the first respondent had the mandate to establish and maintain sanitary services for the removal of all kinds of refuse and effluent. It was argued that when dealing with the disposal of waste, no person shall operate a waste disposal site without a licence.
It was clear that the respondent did not have the requisite licence and the court found that the first and third respondents violated the petitioners’ right to a clear and healthy environment, but that the second respondent did not.
The petition partly succeeded. The court granted the declaration but refused to grant the injunction to relocate the waste disposal site.
The court considered a petition to have a decision handed down by the Ministry of Devolution and Planning quashed and declared unconstitutional.
The petitioners were Embobut Forest dwellers which shared a common border with five other clans. The petitioners alleged that they were genuine evictees and internally displaced persons who were aggrieved, ignored and not compensated when the respondents harmonized their registers.
The petitioners argued that their constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment had been infringed and that they had not been appropriately compensated. They alleged that they ought to have been compensated like any other squatters and that they had been discriminated against.
The court found that the arguments put forward by the petitioners were non-justiciable. Justiciability refers to the types of matters the court can adjudicate on. In this instance, the court found that the harmonization of the register of the petitioners was a political question, and not a legal one.
The court found that the purpose of compensating those who were in illegal occupation of the forest was to give effect to their right to property. However, the court found that the petitioners did not demonstrate that they were part of those who illegally occupied the land, and thus could not be compensated. Further, the court found that the petitioners did not demonstrate that any of the constitutional provisions had been violated, thus their petition was without substance.
The petitioners in this matter contented that since 1998, the fourth and fifth respondents had played excessively loud music at night thus causing the petitioners and other residents sleepless nights. The respondents operated an entertainment spot located near a residential area and learning institutions and whose main entertainment menu was the playing of very loud music. The petitioners alleged that the noise interfered with their peace and quiet enjoyment of their properties and violated their right to a clean and healthy environment.
In order to prove that the noise and vibration levels from the respondent’s restaurant were excessive, the petitioners used self-made instruments that were not approved by a relevant lead agency or any person appointed by the National Environmental Management Authority.
This was against the requirements of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act. Therefore, the petition had to fall, although the learned Judge noted that the petitioners had a noble claim.
The matter dealt with a petition of appeal arising out of a dispute over the destruction of the respondent’s crops by wild animals that entered the respondent’s farm.
The court considered whether s3A(l) of the Wildlife Act, imposed liability on the appellant to compensate for loss or destruction of crop. The court held that s3A(l) imposed a duty on the appellant to protect the crops from destruction by wildlife and compensate for destruction.
The court considered whether there is a common law obligation under the principle in Donoghue v Stevenson 1932 SC (HL) 31 and the rule in Ryland v Fletcher  LR 1Ex 265 on the appellant to compensate for damage or destruction caused by wildlife. The court found that neither were applicable to the present matter based on the facts of the case.
The court considered whether damage caused by migrating wildlife is an act of God. Consideration must be given to the question whether the event was reasonably foreseeable. Migration of wildlife is an annual occurrence thus, foreseeable and so not an act of God.
The court considered whether the government ought to be liable for destruction by wildlife. Factually, the appellant had the duty of control of the wildlife because of s3A of the Wildlife Act and so the court held that liability for the damage fell on the appellant.
Court of Appeal judgment upheld.
The matter dealt with an application to release the applicant’s motor vehicle which was being detained by the Kenya Forest Service pursuant to an order of forfeiture.
The court held that the right to forfeit private property must be subject to both the constitution and the enabling statute.
The court held that the key elements in an application by the state seeking forfeiture in a criminal proceeding are that:
(a) The state must establish the requisite nexus between the property and the offence;
(b) The courts determination may be based on evidence already on record including any plea and or adduced evidence accepted by the court as relevant;
(c) If the court seeks to forfeit a specific property, a notice of the order must be sent to any person who reasonably might appear to be a potential claimant with standing to contest the forfeiture;
(d) This is more so when in practical terms the seized property would be in the hand of an agent, employee, or servant of the person with proprietary interest or right;
(e) Furthermore, as a form of punishment the principle of proportionality ought to apply.
The court held that, a presumptive innocent person whose property is a subject of criminal proceedings should not lose the property without an opportunity to be heard. In the present case, the order on forfeiture was disproportionate to the nature and gravity of the offence and there was a failure to serve notice. Accordingly, the order on forfeiture was quashed.
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.