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 case concerned parties who had competing interests (one being a luxury tourist lodge and the other one was a copper mine) over the same piece of land. They were undergoing litigation, which included a pending action before another court, in which the first and second respondent were seeking the eviction of the applicant from the property which they sold to the applicant in 2002.
The court considered an application to review and set aside a decision to grant the second respondent an environmental clearance certificate, as well as an interdict restraining them from taking any further action from using the mining rights already granted.
The applicant had earlier stated that they would launch urgent proceedings once they become aware that first and second respondent intend commencing mining activities. However, subsequent communication showed that there were no imminent mining activities. On this basis, the court found that the matter was not inherently urgent, and the application was therefore struck from the roll.
The court considered an application for a mandamus by the applicant, as a result of the respondents having applied for the consolidation and rezoning of 2 plots of land. The respondents had their application conditionally approved upon submitting an engineer’s drawing for the erection of retaining walls as part of flood protection and to create 54 client accessible parking bays.
The court considered if there was a contravention of s 44(5) of the applicant’s town planning scheme in accordance with the Town Planning Ordinance No 18 of 1954 as amended. Without drawing plans being submitted to the applicant for approval, the respondents admitted that a temporary corrugated iron wall was erected on the riverbank which was next to the two properties. On their own admission, the respondents did not create the 54 accessible parking bays.
The court found that the respondents failed to adhere to the condition of their approved application, so they were ordered to remove the illegally constructed corrugated iron wall, to submit an engineer’s drawing for the erection of the retaining walls to be constructed on the properties, within three months of the order. They were also ordered to construct the retaining wall within six months from the date of the approval by the applicant of the engineering drawing, as well as to remove all building materials and rubble from one plot in order to create 54 accessible parking bays on one of the properties. Respondents were ordered to pay applicant’s costs.
The matter dealt with an exception raised in the High Court of Namibia by the defendant to the plaintiff’s claim for damages for breach of duty to perform professional work. The plaintiff’s claim was that on account of the defendant’s breach, large quantities of effluent leaked out of the reticulation system beneath its bottling plant and it sustained damage to its property.
The main issue was when the plaintiff’s cause of action arose and if the plaintiff was the owner of the property at the time of the alleged damage. Under this issue the court sought to determine whether the pipes in question were damaged “after or upon installation”.
The defendant had argued that the plaintiff’s claim was not appropriate in delict as the breach was not wrongful for purposes of Aquilian liability. The defendant further claimed that the plaintiff did not have a proprietary interest in the property at the time of the alleged breach.
The court held that the duty of care of a professional could be extended to a person who later becomes the owner of a property as the damage to the pipes remained latent until discovered when the plaintiff acquired the property. The court further held that the Aquilian action forms a basis for such a remedy and that there were considerations of policy and convenience which prima facie allowed for an extension in the circumstances
Accordingly, the defendant’s application was dismissed with costs to the plaintiff.
The matter dealt with an application to review the minister’s refusal to renew an exclusive prospecting license (EPL) for the applicant. Such a license would ordinarily be granted for an initial period of three years and thereafter could be renewed for not more than two successive periods.The applicant held a license from 1997 to 2000 and thereafter sought a renewal which was granted in 2001. However, the second application to renew was denied prompting the applicant to question the validity of the first renewal, The applicant argued that the acceptance of the renewal was done by an unauthorised individual acting outside his mandate and it should therefore be set aside.
The court considered the validity of the first renewal and held that since the initial renewal was by an unauthorised individual, it was void. Consequently it was immaterial whether the minister granted or refused the second application. The court decided further that section 48 of the Act mandates an applicant to accept the terms and conditions of a renewal within one month, failing which the application would be deemed to have lapsed. Consequently, the initial acceptance was ruled to be void because the application for a first renewal had lapsed.
Therefore, the court concluded that because the substance of the applicant's application for review rested on the respondent's refusal of the second renewal of the EPL, that second renewal could not have been granted or refused, because the EPL had already expired and was never legally renewed.
The matter dealt with an application for review of a decision by the first respondent to grant a reconnaissance licence to the second respondent. The issue for the court’s consideration was whether it was permissible to grant an exclusive reconnaissance license to a non-holder of a reconnaissance license and whether a side note in a statute could be used in the interpretation of a statutory provision.
The applicant conceded that in terms of section 59(1)(a) of the Minerals Act, they were not a holder of a reconnaissance licence and therefore could not have applied for an exclusive reconnaissance as required by that section but contended that an exclusive reconnaissance licence was competent under section 62(1) of the act.
The court in dismissing the application decided that ss 59 to 62 complemented each other. The court cited Chandler v DPP which held that side notes cannot be used as an aid to the construction of legislation as they are mere catchwords inserted by the draftsman and not the legislator. Therefore the notion that the marginal note to s 59 held that the section only deals with exclusive reconnaissance licences was immaterial. The court held that the language of s 59(1)(a) instead demonstrated that an ordinary reconnaissance license could not be issued under s 62(1), unless it was first granted under s 59(1)(a) and ruled that only the holder of a valid reconnaissance license may apply for an exclusive reconnaissance license under s59(1)(b).
The matter dealt with an alleged breach of contract that required the plaintiff to supply large amounts of water to the defendantís wine farm. The contract contained two main clauses namely, that the defendant would reimburse the plaintiff a maximum of N$300000 for obtaining tenders and would design and construct the bulk water supply scheme in the absence of an alternative agreement.
The plaintiff contended that the agreement was never entered into despite the work being carried out and as a result, they were entitled to reimbursement because the defendant breached the two main clauses of the contract. In response, the defendant alleged that the plaintiff was vicariously guilty of breach of contract as a result of which the defendant says it terminated contract.
The main question before the court was whether the plaintiff was vicariously guilty of breach of contract which resulted in the defendantís termination of the contract and in the alternative. The court also considered whether the respondent would be required to pay for the work done as per the agreement.
The court found that no such breach existed and that had there been a breach, the defendant, would have been required to communicate termination of the contract which it failed to do. The court concluded that the reliance on an alleged oral agreement had not been proved by facts ëíin the clearest and most satisfactory manneríí. The court found in favour of the applicant.
This was a consolidated case where the court dealt with the issue of delay in instituting review of the decision of the minister of mines and energy to refuse the renewal of an Exclusive Prospecting Licence (EPL).
The court considered the issue of delay and not the merits of the refusal to renew licence. The court applied the rule in Disposable Medical Products v Tender Board of Namibia 1997 NR 129 HC where the court held that an inquiry to determine ‘reasonableness’ should be factual and the court can only exercise its discretion after making a conclusion that the delay was unreasonable. The court also considered the scope and object of the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act, No 33 of 1992 with regard to compliance with specific timelines.
The court held that the delays occasioned by the applicants were unreasonable and the explanations in both applications were unsatisfactory for the court to apply its discretion. Accordingly, both applications were dismissed with costs.
The plaintiff claimed that it was patentee and registered proprietor of an invention for the "method of, and apparatus for, underwater mining of mineral deposits known as a "pebble jetting system.” The plaintiff alleged that the defendants infringed on its patent by using integers of its invention in another invention, resulting in financial loss to the plaintiff. The defence argued that the Patents and Designs Proclamation, No. 17 of 1923 upon which the plaintiff relied for the registration of its patent had been repealed by the South African Patents Act, No 37 of 1952 and was therefore no longer in force in Namibia and that the union Act in s18 of the proclamation was to become main legislative piece for patents.
The court therefore had to decide whether the Patent proclamation was still in force and determine the legitimacy of the granting of the patent and the meaning of Union Act in the proclamation.
The court found that that the provisions of the proclamation under which the patent in issue had been granted, were not repealed or amended by the 1952 Act and were valid by virtue of Article 140(1) of the Constitution. Secondly, that the extent to which the Union Act had been applied to the law of patents in the Territory stemmed from s.5 of the Proclamation and, although it applied the Union Act to a wide range of specified matters, it did not apply to applications for the granting of patents. The matter was dismissed with costs.
This was an application to review the minister’s decision that differentiated the manner of issuing the sale of trophy hunting concessions as between the applicant and fourth respondent.
The applicant succeeded in obtaining an order to show cause (rule nisi) and an interim interdict of the reliefs in their application to prohibit the implementation of the concessions.
The applicant’s locus standi was challenged during the proceedings. The court applied the reasonable person test and held that the applicant was an ‘aggrieved person’ whose fundamental rights had been infringed or threatened to be infringed.
The court considered whether the minister violated the applicant’s right to equality and held that the minister acted fairly; since the decision was made to redress the injustice of the fourth respondent and did not violate the cabinet’s policy or the constitutional principle of equality.
The court also considered whether the decision violated the applicant’s right to administrative justice as per the concept of legitimate expectation of a hearing. The court applied the rule that the court should consider the existence of a duty to act fairly. The court held that the principles of a sale by private treaty did not require the minister to afford all professional hunters an opportunity to be heard. Having found that the concession was legally granted, the court did not deal further with the issue on violation of the freedom of economic activity.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the application for interdictory relief and made an order as to costs.
The plaintiff in this case claimed restitution for a breach of contract. The court determined whether the defendant was in breach of contract for failing to install a working borehole in a geohydrological environment where the plaintiff's farm was located.
The defendant raised a counterclaim that the plaintiff had accepted that work was completed but failed to pay the balance of the agreed amount. The court applied the rule in Du Plessis v Ndjavera that the plaintiff is under no obligation to perform before defendant has completed his performance.
The court held that the defendant was at fault for failing to assess the soil formation in the area and ended up using the incorrect drilling method. The court observed that the defendant admitted to using the riskier direct flush air percussion instead of the mud rotary method to save on expenses and thus failed to complete performance.
Accordingly, the court held that the defendant was in breach of contract and the plaintiff was entitled to cancel the
agreement and claim restitution. The counterclaim was also dismissed with costs.
This was a criminal appeal on the sentences imposed for unlawful possession and import of rough and/or uncut diamonds.
The appellant’s counsel submitted arguments in support of additional grounds of appeal that were not entertained. The court applied the rule that a notice of appeal should clearly set out the grounds of appeal.
The court considered whether the magistrate erred by failing to adequately take into account that the appellant was a first offender, the limited value of the diamonds, the forfeiture of the diamonds, and that the appellant co-operated with the police investigation. The court was satisfied from the contents of the judgment on sentence that the magistrate considered the personal circumstances of the appellant. The court also held that forfeiture was not a mitigating factor since the appellant had no recognisable right in law in the articles forfeited.
The court also considered whether the magistrate overemphasized the seriousness of the offence. It was held that the magistrate was entitled to place the seriousness of the offence and the interest of society when sentencing, due to the potential prejudice of the Namibian Government losing its International trading licence in diamonds.
The court noted that sentencing was a discretionary power. It applied the rule that that an appeal court should not alter discretionary decisions unless the difference between its sentence and the trial court’s is so great to infer that the trial court acted unreasonably. The court held that such a disparity did not exist and dismissed the appeal.
This matter dealt with a dispute as to whether there was illegal mining by the respondent on the applicant’s exclusive prospecting licence.
The High Court considered whether expert evidence was required to establish a cause of action. The relevant test was whether a witness proffering an opinion is competent to give one on the matter in dispute. In this case, the court considered that only a land surveyor would be competent to determine the precise boundaries of disputed land. The applicant’s witness was a geologist and not a land surveyor. Accordingly, the court held that expert evidence of a land surveyor was necessary and failure to present it was fatal.
The court also considered whether it was permissible for the applicant to introduce new evidence in the replying papers. The court relied on the principle that in motion proceedings the affidavits constitute both the pleadings and the evidence. Furthermore, the applicant could not substitute a different claim in the replying papers. Accordingly, the court did not consider the evidence of the land surveyor tendered by the applicant during motion proceedings.
Finally, the court considered whether to impose a special costs order against the applicant on the scale as between attorney and own client. The principle followed was that punitive costs should only be awarded in exceptional circumstances. The court considered that there was no demonstrable reprehensible conduct by the applicant. Accordingly, the costs only include the costs of one instructing and one instructed counsel.
In this case the court provided reasons for granting an interlocutory application to prohibit the respondent from mining on private land pending the outcome of an action for eviction of the respondent.
The applicants alleged that the respondent breached his obligation to rehabilitate the land and provide suitable accommodation for the employees. The court observed that the respondent’s replies to these two aspects were bizarre and that the applicants had made a strong case for cancelling the agreement. Consequently, the court held that the relief sought was justified on the merits of the case.
The court went on to observe that, based on the application of the doctrine of res litigiosa (subject of a pending action) according to Namibian law. The court observed that the right to mine generally fell within the meaning of alienating property as per the common law principle of res litigiosa. However, the provision in the Minerals Act provided that the plaintiff in a pending action for delivery of the res (property) would not automatically become entitled to an interdict against the miner.
The court applied the Webster v Mitchell test as read with the provisions of the Minerals Act. Consequently, it held that even if it was open to some doubt that the mining agreement was validly cancelled, the applicant became entitled to an interdict, with no need to comply with the further requirement to obtain an interim interdict.
Accordingly, the court was satisfied that the applicant was entitled to the relief granted.
The matter dealt with a delay by the respondents to issue a permit for the import into Namibia of elephants published in Government Gazette No. 4236, Notice 60, dated 1 April 2009.
The court considered whether the delay was ultra vires the provisions of the Nature Conservation Ordinance No. 4 of 1975. The respondents conceded that the moratorium was ultra vires the ordinance and accordingly, the court agreed with their concession.
The court considered further, whether it should make an order directing the second respondent to issue the required permit to the applicant. The principle to be applied in the circumstances was that the court had discretion once it set aside an administrative decision to take the decision itself and this discretion was to be exercised judicially. The court observed that the second respondent had not yet decided whether to grant or deny the application and that the second respondent was better positioned to decide because it was privy to factual material which the court was not. Accordingly, the court held that it could not order the second respondent to issue the permit to the applicant.
The court considered whether the applicant and second respondent entered into a valid agreement. The test to be applied was to inspect the intention of the parties. The court concluded that whilst the applicant and second respondent had discussed and agreed upon some conditions, those were not intended to be the only conditions. Accordingly, the court held that no valid agreement was concluded.
This case interpreted the requirements to qualify for exemptions in s. 47(1) of the Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975 that allow for the sale of game or game meat or the skins of game which is obviously under the age of one year.
The applicants sought to review a decision by the minister of environment and tourism that revoked and altered the terms of the gaming certificate issued for Erindi farm. The permit was altered to include that it did not apply to game kept in enclosures smaller than 1000 ha. The court found that in doing so, the minister equated the phrase ‘piece of land’ in s. 47(1) (ii) with the phrase ‘enclosure’. This consequently subjected ‘a farm’ to the same requirement governing ‘a piece of land’.
The court noted that not every piece of land in Namibia was a farm. It was held that the respondents’ interpretation of s. 47(1) exemptions was far-fetched. The court held that farms were required to be enclosed with a game-proof fence to qualify for the exemption while a piece of land required the land to be 1000 hectares and be enclosed with a game-proof fence. The court observed that Erindi farm was enclosed with a game-proof fence and should not be subjected to other requirements.
It was also held that the first respondent acted unlawfully for failing to give the applicants an opportunity to be heard.
Accordingly, the respondents were interdicted from enforcing the alterations in the certificate.
The applicants sought to review and set aside the decision of the first respondent to cancel a lease agreement concluded by the 4th applicant after the 4th applicant disregarded environmental standards on wastewater discharge per the agreement.
The court determined whether the first to third applicants’ irregular appointment as liquidators deprived them of locus standi (capacity) to seek review. It was held that these applicants had the required locus standi.
The court also determined whether the application was brought in reasonable time given the delay in filing the application after becoming aware of the cancellation of the lease. It was noted that there is no prescribed time for the institution of review proceedings. However, the court found that the applicants failed to explain the delay and held it to be unreasonable.
The court held that the relationship between the 4th applicant and first respondent was a contractual relationship. The court considered whether the Municipality validly cancelled the lease agreement before the liquidators’ election to continue with the lease agreement. The court considered clause 16.1 of the agreement and observed that the agreement required no formalities for cancellation. It applied the test of whether a reasonable person would conclude that the proper performance will not be forthcoming and held that the Municipality had a right to cancel the lease.
It was also held that the review relief sought was unsustainable since the decision to cancel the agreement did not constitute reviewable administrative action despite being made by a person who would ordinarily perform administrative functions.
The applicants abandoned their claim for declaratory order to exercise an improvement lien and moved for amendment of the relief in prayer 3. However, the amendment was not requested or granted. Hence the two prayers were dismissed.
Accordingly, the matter was dismissed with costs.
The plaintiff’s claim was for judgment against the defendants for rental money received from the 3rd to 8th defendant from leasing part of plaintiff's land. The plaintiff also claimed compensation for loss of land as per art. 16(2) of the Namibian Constitution.
The applicant argued that she acquired a customary land right in respect of riparian land that was designated as communal land by a representative of the Mafwe Traditional Authority, after her father’s death in 2001.
The land became state land after it was declared a township in 1995 and was thus transferred to the Katima Mulilo Town Council.
The defendants argued that the local authority owned the land and the plaintiff had no right thereof. The court held that ownership of the land vested in the local authority as per the Local Authorities Act of 1992. The court applied s. 15(2) of the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002 as read with Section 3 of the Local Authorities Act of 1992 and held that the land ceased to be customary land when the town council became the owner in 1995.
The court noted as an obiter (by the way), that the claim for compensation should have been made against the state for taking possession of the community land not the Local Authority.
Accordingly, the claim was dismissed with costs.
This was an appeal by a company and its liquidators against the decision of the lower court to dismiss their claim for the validity of a lease. The appellants claimed in the alternative that the decision of the respondent, the Municipal Council of Windhoek (“the council”) be reviewed and set aside.
The main issues to be determined were, whether the council had validly cancelled the lease prior to the liquidators’ election to continue with it and whether the decision of the council was open to review by the court.
The respondent contended that the cancellation was caused by the appellants’ breach of a term of the contract, by discontinuance of its textile industry. The respondent further contended that the appellants breached another term regarding sound environmental practices.
The court found that the respondent’s decision to terminate the lease was solely contractual and not administrative. On this basis therefore, the court held that the decision was not open to review on administrative law grounds.
Firstly, the court held that financial failure of a company, leading to liquidation, could not terminate a lease. Secondly, that the council failed to establish what the terms for an environmental friendly textile industry were. In conclusion, the court held that the company had in fact given notice to terminate the lease and that the notice was accepted by the respondent. Consequently, the lease had then ceased to exist.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal with costs.
In this case, the applicants sought to enforce the decision of the Royal House of Chief Kambazembi (a traditional authority), that allocated communal land to them.
Following the continued occupation of the three square kilometres of the land by the first and second respondents, the applicants decided to enforce the decision by the traditional authority in the court.
The court analysing s. 24-26 of the Communal Land Reform Act, Act 5 of 2002 held that the traditional authority had the power to allocate customary land rights. However, upon the allocation of a customary land right, the applicant was required to notify the land board for registration of the land. The court observed that the applicant failed to do so and thus failed to establish a right that was capable of enforcement by the court.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed, and the applicants were directed to pay costs of the first and second respondents jointly and severally.
Statutory Appeal - Section 51(1) of the Environmental Management Act, 7 of 2007 - on points of law only - Meaning - Whether grounds of appeal are based on points of law.
Constitutional law — Fundamental rights — Administrative justice —Failure to invite one of the parties to a dispute to the appeal hearing— fundamentally unfair hearing — Violation of arts 12 and 18 of Constitution.
The matter dealt with an application by the state to recall witnesses in a trial in which the accused stood charged in the main count with theft of diamonds, or alternatively with possession of diamonds in contravention of Proclamation 17 of 1939. The court had dismissed the main charge on the basis that the link between the objects which were found in possession of the accused, and which were ultimately valued and identified as rough and uncut diamonds, did not exist. However, the state relied on the alternative and requested the court to recall witnesses to prove that these objects were in fact rough and uncut diamonds.
The main issue was whether it was necessary to recall witnesses for the fair adjudication of a case.
The court stated that where the evidence of a witness was necessary for the fair adjudication of the case, the court was obliged in terms of s 167 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 to recall that witness or those witnesses.
The court established that the evidence was necessary for the fair adjudication of the case between the State and the accused, in the sense that a person who was guilty on that charge might be acquitted but that the giving of such evidence would not lead to an innocent person possibly being found guilty.
The court, therefore, held that the evidence was essential for the fair adjudication of the case and granted the application by the state.
This was an appeal against the High Court’s decision that declared the land tax imposed under ss 76 to 80 of the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act as constitutional.
The court determined whether s 76 contravened the constitutional principal of separation of powers which gives the National Assembly power to provide for revenue and taxation.
The appellant contended that the law in question went against separation of powers by devolving legislative power to a minister.
The court held that s 76 did not conflict with the constitutional principles of separation powers as the power of the National Assembly had been exercised by the stipulation of a tax as authorised by the Constitution. The court found that the only role of the minister was to set a rate according to a procedure set out in the regulations. The court stated further that in any event, this rate was subject to the approval of the National Assembly and as such, no independent power was vested in the minister.
The court noted that the regulations that were challenged set out how the land was to be administered. The court held that the appellant’s claim lacked sufficient particularity required for pleadings in constitutional litigation.
Accordingly, the court held that the appellant had failed to establish how these regulations contravened constitutional provisions and dismissed the appeal. The court also dismissed the appellant’s prayer with no order as to costs.
Civil Procedure – application for absolution from the instance – Rules of Court - Rule 100 – principles governing the application discussed – requirement for absolution from the instance - whether or not the plaintiff set out a prima facie case – Law of Evidence - whether failure to examine an expert who has filed his report results in the court attaching no value to the expert report – commercial value attached to the Exclusive Prospecting Licence – court’s discretion on how the value of the EPL License is computed.
This was an appeal against a decision of the High Court to dismiss the appellant’s claim for loss of occupation of communal land. Her second claim was that the land was unlawfully expropriated without compensation by the respondents.
The court determined whether or not the appellant had acquired a valid customary law tenure right in the land in dispute and whether this right was unlawfully interfered with. Further, whether any liability attached to the council arising from its interference with that right.
The first respondent (“the council”), contended that the land belonged to it and had ceased to be communal land thus extinguishing communal land tenure. The court found that the appellant acquired and held a customary land tenure right and the state’s succession to the communal land did not extinguish communal land tenure but the state simply held the land in trust for the affected communities.
The court established that the Constitution guaranteed the enforcement of customary land rights. The court therefore, concluded that the appellant had an exclusive right to the use and occupation of the land in dispute; and that the right attached to the land even after its proclamation as town land.
Accordingly, they court upheld the appeal with costs in favour of the appellant. The matter was remitted to the High Court for the adjudication of the appellant’s claim of unjust enrichment and compensation.
Practice – Judgments and orders – Application for stay of execution of judgment pending appeal to Supreme Court – Court having jurisdiction to determine matter in terms of its inherent jurisdiction where dictates of real and substantial justice required it.
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.