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 a judicial review application against the decision of the respondent to approve the alteration of use of the suit land from residential to office premises. The applicants sought orders of certiorari quashing the decision and prohibition, prohibiting the user from further excavation and construction on the land as well mandamus to compel the respondents to exercise its statutory duty in ensuring no further excavation and construction is done.
The court found that applications for judicial review were brought in the name of the Republic, since a judicial review is a mechanic whereby the state checks on the excesses of its officers and public bodies in performance of their administrative duties. The court noted that the application was not brought in the name of the republic and held that the case was not properly instituted.
Additionally, it was found that all parties affected by the judicial review proceedings such as National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) were not served in accordance with Order 53 r 3(2) of the Civil Procedure Rules which was fatal to the application. As such, although there was no evidence of compliance with s 59 of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act 1999 as well as regulation 17 of the Environmental (Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations 2003 by NEMA and the user, court could not make any finding as to do so would amount to condemning NEMA unheard.
Accordingly, the application was struck out.
The applicants sought orders of temporary injunction and injunction to restrain the respondents from using the suit property as a wedding ground or place of entertainment of wedding parties and to restrain the respondents from carrying out actions that constitute noise pollution within the meaning of the Environment and Management Co-ordination (Noise and Excessive Vibration) (Control) Regulations 2009 (Legal Notice No.6/2009).
The applicants contended that no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted and notice of change of user was not served on the residents in accordance with the Physical Planning Act. On the other hand, the respondents contended that the applicants had no locus standi as the association was illegal.
The court found that the applicants, being neighbors to the suit property, were aggrieved by the respondents’ actions and had locus to bring the case.
The court noted that the respondents had no EIA license but only a letter of approval from NEMA that contained conditions which they had not complied with. The court also found that the publication of change of user was insufficient as it was done in newspapers of limited circulation and the residents were not personally served. Court further found that the respondents had not complied with Legal Notice No.6/2009.
Accordingly, the court granted the injunctions.
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.
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.
This matter arose from an application for judicial review of a decision of the defendant to issue a notice for the cancellation of the plaintiff’s license. The plaintiff prayed for orders of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus.
The court certified the application as urgent and directed the applicant to serve the respondent. The respondent failed to make an appearance during the hearing, and the court granted leave to stay the notice of cancellation of the licence.
The respondent later filed an application under s 3A of Civil Procedure Act to set aside the stay order. The court found that the replying affidavits filed by the interested parties raised environmental issues and deficiency in the procedure leading to the grant of licence to the applicant.
The court noted its obligation to protect and uphold the authority of all the concerned parties to preserve and manage the environment. The court thus ordered the applicant and the Water Resource Management Authority (interested party) to file joint reports after surveying the riparian reserve area to indicate whether the project had interfered with the reserve. In case of failure to get a joint report, the court ordered the parties to file separate reports from their respective experts within 15 days and prohibited the applicant from developing the area of suit land along the riparian reserve.
This was an application for review of the respondent’s decision to authorise the construction of a lodge in a protected area. The lodge was built prior to obtaining the necessary environmental authorisation but this was obtained ex post facto. The applicant had at the time of filing this application alos filed an application for an interdict to stop the construction of the lodge, which application was dismissed.
The main legal issue to be resolved was whether under the National Environmental Management Act No 107 of 1998 (NEMA) a permit to build a house in the Protected Environment (MPE) could be issued ex post facto as was given to the third respondent by the first and second respondents.
The court held that section 24 G of NEMA provided for the rectification of the unlawful commencement of the activity by applying to the Minister or MEC for an ex post facto environmental authorisation. In conclusion, the court held that since the application was done and approved ex post facto the respondents had acted within the confines of the law and therefore the application lacked merit. The court observed further that the was aware, or ought to have been aware that when it was unsuccessful in the urgent application to have the development of the Lodge suspended, the consequences were that the respondent would continue with the construction and finalisation of its building project and the review would be rendered academic. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The applicant brought this matter to the Constitutional court as a court of first instance having cited the respondents for their failure to implement legislation aimed at containing pollution and to prosecute state a company alleged to have caused pollution.
The court first had to decide whether it was necessary for the Constitutional Court to be the court of first instance in this matter.
The court stressed that direct access should be granted only in exceptional circumstances. The court stated that justification for direct access was set out in rule 18(2) of the Uniform Rules of the court on the following grounds: if it is in the interests of justice to do so; where the nature of relief sought and the grounds relied upon justify it; whether the matter can be dealt with by the Court without the hearing of oral evidence; and, if it cannot, how evidence should be adduced and conflicts of fact resolved. The court held that these grounds were not satisfied. Therefore the court could not adjudicate further on the allegations against the respondents and dismissed the application. However, in the alternative the court ordered that the Registrar bring the judgment to the attention of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, with a request that it consider whether one of its members may provide assistance to the applicant as the issues were not set out clearly but were of importance and deserved the attention of the court.
This was an appeal to the Constitutional Court against the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the unlawfulness of the water meters under operation “Gcin’amanzi”, a project addressing water losses and non-payment of water services in Soweto. This was done by installing pre-paid meters to charge consumers for use of water in excess of the free 6 kilolitre per household monthly water allowance. With access to water being a constitutionally guaranteed right, the Supreme Court ordered that the applicants supply residents with at least 60litres of water, hence quantifying what “sufficient water” as given in the Constitution.
The court in this matter had to deliberate on what the meaning of “sufficient water” was as required by the Constitution and the lawfulness of the pre-paid water meters.
The Constitutional Court found that it was not appropriate for a court to give a quantified content to what constitutes “sufficient water” because this would be best addressed by the government which pegged it. Further, given that, 80 percent of the households in the City would receive adequate water under the present policy, the Court concluded that it would not have been unreasonable for the City not to have supplied more.
With regard to the pre-paid water meters, the Court held that the national legislation and the City’s own by-laws authorised the local authority to introduce pre-paid water meters as part of Operation Gcin’amanzi. Accordingly, it held that the installation of the meters was neither unfair nor discriminatory.
The matter dealt with an application for leave to appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the first respondent to acquire a prospecting licence in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act over the applicant’s land.
Appeals to the High Court, and later to the Supreme Court were dismissed on the ground that the community had failed to file for review timeously in terms of the provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. The merits of the case were not heard in both matters.
In determining the application, the Constitutional Court considered the following: whether there were internal remedies; whether there was proper consultation and whether consideration was given to the environmental requirements.
It found that an internal appeal was available to the applicants, but the respondents’ failure to deal with the appeal frustrated the process, although the review application had been brought in time. Further, the court held that the granting of prospecting rights was an invasion of a property owner’s rights and that the purpose of consultation with landowners, was to provide them with the information necessary to make an informed decision on how to respond to the application.
The court concluded that the decision-maker had not given the community a hearing or complied with the fairness requirements of the Act, and that the environmental requirements in terms of the Act had not been satisfied. Accordingly, leave to appeal was granted and the prospecting rights on the community’s land were set aside.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold an interdict against the applicant to stop the applicant from mining until the respective land in contention was re-zoned to permit mining in terms of provincial legislation. The minister had earlier granted mining permits to the appellant to mine areas zoned as public open spaces in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. The appellant contended the act was superior to the provincial legislation and Supreme Court had erred in upholding the High Court interdict against it. The appellant had claimed that mining fell under the exclusive competence of national government and that the proposition that provincial legislation regulating municipal planning applied to it would be tantamount to allowing municipal government to intrude into the terrain of the national sphere.
The Constitutional Court in determining whether to grant leave considered whether the provincial legislation that required rezoning did not apply to land used for mining.
The court, in rejecting the applicant’s argument, held that the provincial law and the national law served different purposes which fall within the competences of the local and the national sphere. Each sphere was exercising power allocated to it by the Constitution and regulated by the relevant legislation.
The court concluded that the interdicts were invalidly issued and held further that in order to bring clarity to the application of competing laws, leave to appeal ought to be granted in order to deal with the constitutional issues raised.
The plaintiff sought orders that it did not owe the defendant for any service, and for a permanent injunction restraining the defendant from interfering with or disconnecting the plaintiff’s water system connected to its borehole due to an outstanding water bill.
The court considered whether it had jurisdiction to hear and determine this suit and application. The provisions of s 85 of the Water Act show that the jurisdiction of the Water Appeals Board is two-fold: first is to hear appeals from decisions and orders of the Water Resources Management Authority, the minister, or the Water Services Regulatory Board concerning a permit or licence. The second jurisdiction of the Water Appeals Board is as is conferred by any law. There was no decision or order on a permit or licence being appealed in this suit and application. Accordingly, the court found that this dispute is not envisaged by s 85(1).
Furthermore, s 85(2) showed that the additional jurisdiction granted to the Water Appeals Board was in fact limited, and it did not have jurisdiction to determine all disputes under the act, but only those disputes where jurisdiction was conferred on it by the Water Act or any other act. No such law was cited by the defendant, to warrant the application of s 85(2). Therefore, the court found that s 85 did not apply to the facts of this suit and application, and that it, therefore, had jurisdiction to determine the matter.
Preliminary objection dismissed.
This was an application for judicial review wherein the applicants sought orders to quash the respondents’ decision to place an advertisement in the newspapers calling for applications for concessions in state forests, prohibition orders to prevent the respondent from actualizing any matters concerning the advertisement. They also sought an order of mandamus to compel the respondent to comply with constitutional provisions on the protection of forests.
The respondent argued that they had taken the action in accordance with s 37(2) of the Forest Act.
The court determined whether the respondent had complied with the law in making the decision.
The court interpreted s 37(2) and established that before the board takes a decision to place an advertisement for concessions, it must be satisfied that the forests will be efficiently managed through such concession or license and for the board to be satisfied, factors such as public views and opinion, should be taken into account before the decision is made.
The court found that the respondent had not made provision for public participation, yet it was constitutionally bound to do so and thus failed to comply with the law.
Accordingly, the court granted the orders sought by the applicants.
This was an appeal from a decision in an application for judicial review. The appellant was aggrieved by the lower court’s finding that the appellant was not entitled to the orders sought for failure to disclose that an appellate procedure existed under s 129 of the Environmental and Management Co-ordination Act 1999 (EMCA) and not demonstrating why judicial review was preferred to an appeal to the National Environmental Tribunal under the act, upon being dissatisfied with the National Environmental Management Authority’s (NEMA) decisions.
NEMA had ordered the appellant to conduct a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) under s 138 of the EMCA and to cease construction on the suit land.
The court determined whether the trial judge erred in finding that the appellant failed to demonstrate that judicial review was more suitable than an appeal to the tribunal.
The court held that the trial judge arrived at the right conclusion. The court applied the rule that, where an alternative remedy such as a statutory appeal procedure existed, judicial review can only be granted in exceptional circumstances. The court noted that the appellant failed to demonstrate these exceptional circumstances and should have made an appeal to the tribunal instead.
The court also found that public participation is a crucial aspect in environmental matters. The court noted that the fresh EIA as ordered by NEMA would give the appellant an opportunity to ensure public participation which had been ignored in the first EIA.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The matter dealt with an application for a temporary order of injunction restraining the defendant from carrying on the business of a student hostel and a mandatory injunction directing the defendant to remove the student hostel.
The court considered whether the plaintiff met the requirements for the grant of a temporary injunction which entails firstly, establishing a prima facie case and secondly, determining whether there was irreparable damage likely to be caused to the plaintiff that cannot be compensated by way of damages, if an injunction is not granted.
Firstly, the exclusive use of the premises as a students’ hostel, from its previous use as a catering school was a material change of use. Approval was required before the commencement of any development or material change of use of land. Therefore, the defendant was in breach of the relevant planning and environmental laws.
Secondly, the injury to the plaintiff would be of a continuing nature and no amount of damages could ever adequately compensate for harm being caused to the physical and social environment, nor could it buy one’s peace of mind. The plaintiff thereby established a prima facie case to warrant the grant of an order of temporary injunction.
The court considered whether the plaintiff showed any special circumstances to entitle it to the mandatory injunction sought. The court held that the mandatory injunction sought would amount to determining the matter with finality before it proceeded to trial. Consequently, the said prayer was denied.
Consequently, the application partially succeeded.
This was a ruling on a preliminary objection that disputed the jurisdiction of the court. The respondents argued that its discretionary powers were not amenable to judicial review.
This objection was raised in the course of a review of a decision of the respondent to cancel the applicants’ licences that gave them a right to carry out sludge and waste disposal at the port of Mombasa. The applicants sought an order to quash the respondent’s decision and a further order to prohibit the respondent from implementing and enforcing the purported cancellation of the licenses.
Having considered the competing arguments for and against the preliminary objection, the court found that the objection was challenging the jurisdiction of the court. The respondents argued that its discretionary powers were not amenable to judicial review. The court held in the contrary that the decision was administrative and therefore could be the subject of a judicial review. It was further held that the applicants were not barred from coming to that court for assistance when they had grievances with administrative matters.
The court found that the preliminary objection had no merit and dismissed the application with costs to the applicant.
This was an appeal against the decision of the respondents refusing to issue an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Licence for the appellants’ housing project. The appellants asked the tribunal to set aside the decision and award costs of the appeal.
The respondents argued that they had received strong objections from members of the local community since the project was in a wildlife migratory corridor and dispersal area.
The tribunal determined whether the respondents were justified in their decision, subject to the objections, without considering if the objectives of the project could be met in absence of the project. The tribunal noted that the objecting stakeholders also found the project to be worthwhile. The tribunal found that the respondents failed by ascertaining that the views of the objecting stakeholders expressed the views of a significant section of the local community. The tribunal also found that the respondents failed to demonstrate that the potential adverse impacts could not be mitigated.
Based on these findings, the tribunal unanimously set aside the respondents’ decision and issued an EIA licence for the appellants’ project but on several conditions
The court considered and application for an injunction to restrain the defendant from directing storm and waste water into the plaintiff’s dam, or into the neighboring dam.
The defendant had acceded to a request by the members of the community to desilt the dam at the primary school, but as the plaintiff submitted, had failed to conduct an environmental impact assessment before undertaking the rehabilitation of the dam. Further, that the storm water from the defendant’s farm had spilled over to the dam in her parcel of land, thereby polluting it and infringing her right to live in a clean environment.
The issue for determination by this court was whether the plaintiff had established a prima facie case to enable the court to grant her the order of injunction sought.
The court held that the defendant undertook the project before seeking the authority of the National Environmental Management Authority and had therefore not consulted with all parties likely to be affected by the dam in co-ordination with the NEMA, before rehabilitating the dam. Therefore, the defendant breached the law by channeling storm water into the neighboring dam, without first complying with the provisions of the Environmental Management Act and that the plaintiff was within her rights to seek an injunction.
The court considered an appeal against the condition attached by the respondent, to its approval of a housing project.
The appellant intended to build a seven storey building, but the respondent restricted it to four. The appellant contended that the limitation placed on the number of storeys and refusal to allow construction for residential floors, below ground level, was unlawful, which had already been approved by the city council.
Upon request to the tribunal, residents of the area were enjoined to the appeal as interested parties, arguing that the appellant’s development did not respect the stipulated environment, and planning regulations, that permitted only a maximum of four storey buildings in Zone 4, where the proposed construction was located.
The tribunal considered whether the limitations placed on the construction were justified. It held that the respondent had the authority to impose conditions that it deemed necessary to prevent and/or reduce negative environmental impacts that might result from an activity, and therefore had the lawful authority to regulate the appellant’s activity.
Under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) and the regulations made under it, the respondent’s authority superseded that of the city council and any action the Council may have taken regarding the proposed development. The tribunal found that the city council’s approval was not lawful. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The court considered an appeal against the first respondent’s approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Project Report, submitted by the second respondent, in support of its application for the development of a housing estate.
The appellant contended that the housing estate was located in an industrial area with high levels of air and noise pollution, among others, and that a full EIA study ought to have been conducted.
During the course of the trial, it became evident that the Appellant objected to this proposed development, due to its concern that the proposed development, would introduce a conflict between its commercial activities within its premises, and the use of neighboring property for residential purposes.
The tribunal observed that the purpose of the EIA licensing process as prescribed by the Environmental Management and Coordination Act of 1999 and the Environmental (Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations, Legal Notice No 101 of 2003 was to assess the likely significant impacts of a proposed project on the environment.
The tribunal found that the alleged serious health risks on account of the high levels of pollution in the area were not substantiated by credible evidence, and as such the first respondent was justified in rating approval. Further, the tribunal held that there was no evidence to show that this project would adversely impact on the environment in ways that could not be mitigated by the measures that had been proposed by the project proponent in the EIA project report.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The court considered an application declaring that the applicants right to life had been contravened by forcible eviction, as well as their right to protection of the law.
The applicants averred that they had resided and carried on farming on the land from which they were evicted for 61 years. After the land had been degazetted for settlement by Gazette Notices, the applicants claimed that their subsequent eviction was an infringement of their constitutional rights.
The Applicants claimed to reside and possess the land in dispute but did not lay any credible foundation to that claim. The only document they placed before the court to support their claim was what was described as “The fact-finding Report of Mr Cheruiyot Kiplangat.” The said person was not known to this court and the court was not told what authority he had, nor his competence to make the report.
The court held that the report had no legal basis and was to be rejected. As the application was substantially based on the fact that the appellants had wrongly been evicted from the land, to which they purported to lay a stake, the court found that their reference had automatically failed, based on the finding that the fact-finding report they relied on had no legal authority.