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 case concerned a long standing land dispute. The appellants herein appealed against the judgement by the Court of Appeal that reversed the judgement by the High Court was which went in favour of the appellants.
The appellants claim to the land was based on purchase from a third party. In support of their case, they presented a land certificate. The defendants contended that the land claimed by plaintiffs fell within their domain, so they counter claimed for a declaration of title.
The High Court found that the respondents failed to produce sufficient evidence to prove that the land was rightfully theirs, as per the requirements of s11 of the Evidence Act of 1975. The appellants, however, proved their case.
The Court of Appeal reversed the High Court judgement, on the sole ground of a 1992 judgement that declared that the land belonged to the defendants.
The Supreme Court, therefore, had to reconsider the evidence and finally settle the dispute. The court found that a close reading of the 1992 judgement casts doubt on the correctness of the Court of Appeal’s position. It found that the 1992 judgement did not actually concern the land in question and that the Court of Appeal, therefore, erred in its finding. Further, upon review of the evidence, the court found that the balance of probabilities favored the appellants.
Accordingly, it restored the first judgement, with an adjustment to the amount of general damages.
Customary Law – Communal Land – Communal land rights – Power to evict a leaseholder from a communal land – Whether the Communal Land Reform Act, 2002 empowers a leaseholder to cancel a sub-lease and evict a sub lessee from a communal land area.
The matter concerned an allegation that the accused’s filling stations presented an environmental risk. Having been granted leave, the prosecutor, an environmental advocacy organisation instituted a private prosecution in the Gauteng Division of the High Court against the accused, a fuel supplies company.
The prosecutor claimed that it had complied with all the legislative requirements set out in s33 of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 to enable it to initiate such a prosecution. Counts 1 to 21 of the indictment alleged that the accused had contravened ss 21(1), 22(1) and 29(4) of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1986 (“ECA”) as read together with other supporting environmental legislation. The said s 22(2) provided that authorisation of activities like construction of a service station would only be issued after consideration of reports concerning their impact on the environment. The accused formally pleaded to the charges divided into two sections. The first was a plea under s 106(1)(h) denying the prosecutor’s entitlement to prosecute and the other was a plea of not guilty under s 106(1)(b).
The court held that the claim under s 106(1)(h) on defence of want of title to prosecute failed. The court concluded that the prosecutor's case was straightforward and that the accused breached a duty relating to the protection of the environment. It held that in terms of s22(1) of the ECA the undertaking of certain identified activities was prohibited without written authorisation. The accused was convicted on 17 counts and acquitted on four.
This was an appeal against the decision of a magistrate to dismiss an application challenging the jurisdiction of that court to determine matters covered under the Wildlife Conservation Act. The respondent who was attacked by a baboon, commenced proceedings, claiming damages for pain and suffering and loss of amenities.
The High Court observed that s 25 of the act limits the claims to be made by virtue of the list contained in the third schedule. The court held that an attack by a baboon did not fall under section 25 of the Act, when read with the schedule. The court further pointed out that section 25 did not remove the jurisdiction of other courts, but merely introduced an easy way for poor farmers to claim compensation for the destruction of their crops and livestock. The court held that the magistrate was empowered to hear the matter. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.
In this case the appellant challenged the first respondent’s decision to grant the second and third respondents an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license for the construction of a church and related facilities. The second and third respondents raised an objection to the tribunal’s right to hear the matter on the ground that the appeal had been filed outside the timelines set out in the Environmental Management and Coordination Act 1999 (EMCA) as well as the National Environmental Tribunal Procedure Rules, 2003
The main issue for the tribunal’s consideration was whether it had jurisdiction to entertain an appeal which had been filed out of time. The tribunal relied on the rule established in Owners of the Motor Vessel “Lilian S” vs. Caltex Oil (Kenya) Limited that jurisdiction must be acquired before judgment is given. It also relied on s129(1) of the EMCA and held that the act was clear that an appeal ought to have been filed within 60 days but the evidence revealed that the appellants had filed their appeal after 78 days.
Accordingly, the tribunal found that it lacked jurisdiction to determine the matter, as the appeal was filed out of time and the appeal was dismissed.
In this case the tribunal considered an appeal against the approval and issuance of a license for the construction of a social hall, on the basis that it was issued without proper public consultation. The appellants sought revocation of the license and demolition of structures already built. The respondents denied the appellants allegations, arguing that all relevant laws and requirements were complied with and prayed that the appeal be dismissed. The first respondent testified that it issued a stop order against the construction for failing to comply with the requisite procedures and that it was only thereafter that the second respondent applied for the license.
The tribunal considered whether the requirement for public participation had been complied with before issuance of the EIA license
The tribunal held that public participation was a constitutional right under Article 10(2)(a) and found that the second respondent acted illegally and contrary to the principle of public participation. In conclusion, the tribunal found that the land was public land and that any developments should have been approved by the National Land Commission (NLC). It found that the NLC letter received by the respondents did not express approval of the project.
Accordingly, the appeal was upheld, the license revoked, and an environmental restoration order issued, with costs to the appellants.
The tribunal considered an appeal against the approval and issuance of a license for the construction of human waste sewage ponds in a residential area. The appellants argued the following: that they, had not been consulted; that the project would cause significant environmental damage; that the project lacked adequate mitigation measures; and that the respondents did not follow the relevant statutory provisions. The appellants sought cancellation of the license; an order to stop construction of the project; restitution, compensation as well as a guarantee of non- repetition; and environmental restoration. The respondents insisted that they had satisfied the relevant provisions and urged the tribunal to dismiss the appeal with costs.
The main issue for the tribunal’s consideration was whether there was effective public participation. It found that the respondents fell short of the requirement to issue two public notices. The tribunal also found that the respondents failed to demonstrate that they held three public meetings and that they made radio-announcements. It concluded therefor that public participation was not carried out effectively.
The tribunal went on to consider whether the project adhered to the Environment Management and Coordination (Water Quality) Regulations 2006; the Environment Management and Coordination (Wetlands, River Banks, Lake Shores and Sea Shore Management) Regulations 2009; and the Environmental Management and Co-Ordination (Air Quality) Regulations 2014. It found that the respondents failed to adhere to any of these. Accordingly, the tribunal upheld the appeal.