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 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.
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.
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.
The first plaintiff concluded a tribute agreement with the second and third defendants that was to last for ten years. The Mining Commissioner rejected this agreement since it was not registrable. This agreement was replaced by a three-year tribute agreement. When this agreement expired, the first plaintiff entered into another agreement with the second plaintiff and they sought an order registering this agreement and the eviction of the second and third defendant. The eviction order was opposed on grounds that the first agreement was still valid.
In interpreting s289 and 290 of the Mines and Minerals Act on tribute agreements, the court made a distinction between directory and peremptory provisions. The court noted that it is impossible to lay down any conclusive test to distinguish the two provisions. However, provisions in negative form and containing penal sanctions are to be regarded as peremptory rather than directory. The court also noted that the intention of the legislature is to be considered when distinguishing the two.
The court found that the provisions were couched in negative form and that their contravention was to be visited with penal sanctions, hence peremptory. Additionally, it was found that the approval was meant to protect the interests of the tributor and to avoid premature cessation of mining operations.
Accordingly, the court declared that the first agreement was invalid and unenforceable; and that the second agreement was valid but had expired. Consequently, the second and third defendants were ordered to vacate or be evicted.
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.
Revenue and public finance – income tax – deduction – assessed loss – special mining lease – assessed loss may only be deducted once and not carried forward
The court considered an application for an interdict to restrain the respondents from interfering with its mining operations. In response the respondents filed a counter-application to stop the applicant from mining on its registered mining claim.
The applicant contended that the respondents illegally encroached on its claims and was effectively stealing ore. The respondents alleged that it was the applicant who, through the shafts which were registered in their name, entered their area of activity and stole ore from them. Both prayed that the court interdict the other from accessing the claim and interfering with their mining activities.
The court in considering both applications, held that for an interdict to be granted, the right which was the subject matter of the main action and which was to be protected by means of interim relief must be clear or prima facie established. The court stated that if the right was only prima facie established, there should be a well-grounded apprehension of irreparable harm if the interdict was not granted and that proof of harm ultimately succeeded in establishing the right.
The court found that the applicant led no evidence to show that it suffered any harm let alone irreparable harm. The respondents on the other hand, satisfied the court that the disputed claim was registered in its name. The court, therefore, found that the applicant had no clear right to the claim. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs and the counter-application was upheld.
The court considered a criminal appeal against the sentence imposed on the accused, who was sentenced to a mandatory 2-year imprisonment for contravening s 368 (1), which dealt with the illegal mining of gold, under the Mines and Minerals Act
Before imposing a mandatory sentence, the court asked the accused if there were any special circumstances relating to the commission of the offence which would result in the requisite sentence not being imposed.
The accused held that his special circumstances were that he did not have enough money for a bus fare. The court found that this did not constitute a special circumstance as poverty desperation could not be excused for the commission of a crime.
The court found that a special circumstance is within the court’s discretion and thus it should be taken to be any extenuating circumstance. Further, that the court should enquire into all circumstances put forward by an accused to validate the aspect of a special circumstance.
The court held that a trial court had to ensure that economic situations leading to commission of crimes under economic circumstances at the time did not operate differently for the rich and for the poor. The court found that the court below should have performed a proper enquiry and that the accused should be given the benefit of the doubt. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded.
The court considered an application for an interim interdict preventing the respondents from interfering with the applicant’s business and to remove their security personnel.
The applicant held a licence to deal in scrap metal, particularly to acquire, sell or deal in copper. Police officers, accompanied by the 1st respondent attended at the applicant’s warehouse and advised of its intention to search for certain materials which were suspected to have been stolen from the 1st respondent. The 1st respondent ensured that security were placed at the premises to guard the warehouse until such time as the warrant had been obtained.
The court stated that the requirements for an interim interdict were: 1) a clear right, 2) a well-grounded apprehension of harm if the relief was not granted, 3) balance of convenience, and 4) absence of any alternative remedy.
The court found that there was an alternative remedy available since dealing in copper was a closely controlled trade and that a holder was obliged to keep proper records of the copper in its possession, thus it should have no difficult in accounting for any loss.
The court weighed the prejudice to the applicant if the relief was refused against the prejudice to the respondent if granted. It observed that the purpose of placing the security was to ensure that the premises was safe and no items were lost. If relief was granted, this protection would be lost. Thus, the balance of convenience did not favour the applicant. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The court considered an application for a declaratory order and an interdict, declaring the defendants’ waste discharges unlawful and constituting pollution, and prohibiting the defendants from discharging their waste material.
The first and third defendants were mining companies and in conducting their business, they discharged their untreated waste material and effluence into a river. The plaintiffs were inhabitants on the banks of the river and relied on it for their subsistence. The plaintiffs contended that the discharge had polluted the water, aquatic life and disturbed the ecosystem.
The defendants opposed the application by bringing a special plea alleging that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter and it ought to be heard by the Environmental Management Agency. Further, that an interdict should not be granted as there was an alternative remedy available under the Environmental Management Act.
The court found that the argument that the court lacked jurisdiction was without merit. The court observed that there was a glaring need for a declaration as to the existence of a legal right claimed by the plaintiffs but this was not argued nor the fact that the EMA could not issue the declaratory orders sought by the plaintiffs although the plaintiffs were interested persons in the subject matter of the suit. The court found the plaintiffs had a direct and substantial interest in the matter and that there was a need for a declaration to the right claimed by the plaintiffs. Accordingly, the application for special plea was dismissed.
The court considered an application for review concerning the decision handed down by the Magistrate’s Court on whether the accused’s case should have been discharged. The facts were that whilst the complainant was being investigated by the police for theft by finding of gold, the accused, a magistrate, approached the complainant and solicited him for a bribe to dispose of his case. The complainant made a report to the police who set a trap to arrest the accused, after she had received the money.
The defence applied for a discharge of the case, which was granted on the basis that the state witnesses were not truthful.
The court considered whether the magistrate’s decision to the discharge the case was exercised judicially. The court found that the trial court had a discretion to discharge or continue with the trial, and that such discretion ought to have be exercised judicially.
The court stated that a discharge was appropriate where: there was no evidence to prove an essential element of the offence; or no evidence on which a reasonable court would convict; or where the evidence was so unreliable that no reasonable court could act on it. The court held that there was nothing indicating that the witnesses had been discredited and that it was a misdirection for the magistrate to treat the assertions made by the accused as though they were evidence. Accordingly, the court set aside the accused’s discharge and referred the matter back to court for continuation of trial.
The case was in the High Court where the applicant sought to interdict the respondent from entering its diamond processing plant and from coming within 100 meters of the plant because the respondent was interfering with its operations.
The issue before the court was to determine if indeed the respondent interfered with the operations of the respondent. In this case, the judge accepted that the applicant had shown prima facie right over the diamond plant, as it set up the plant which it had been mining and operating from for three years. The court held that the right to mine there would have been in doubt but that did not disentitle the applicant to peaceful and undisturbed possession.
The judge also agreed with counsel for the applicant that the respondent had transgressed or disparaged the existing state of affairs by constantly forcing himself onto the plant claiming ownership of same and even attempting to take over the applicant’s employees which amounted to an infringement of the applicant’s rights. The court held that there could be no other remedy except to prevent the respondent from continuing with his unwarranted misadventures at the plant.
Consequently, the respondent, his agents and anyone acting on his instructions were permanently interdicted from entering the applicant’s diamond processing plant or coming within 100 meters of the said plant. The respondent was ordered to bear the costs of the application.
This was a review in the High Court concerning two accused persons who had been charged with and convicted for contravening s 368(2) as read with s 368 (4) of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05] for prospecting for minerals when they were not holders of licences or permits.
The issue facing the court was to determine whether the accused persons, being widows with minor children, were acting under special circumstances, as the trial magistrate had found. The court held that the learned trial magistrate completely misdirected himself in holding that the circumstances of the accused persons amounted to special circumstances, as there was nothing out of the ordinary about being a widow with minor children to look after. The court also held that the learned magistrate’s line of reasoning was faulty in calling that widows and widowers with minor children should be excused when they break the law so as to fend for the minor children, since it was a recipe for anarchy as there were so many widows and widowers in the country.
Consequently, the sentence imposed by the trial magistrate was not allowed to stand and, therefore, set aside. The matter was sent back to the trial court to recall the two accused persons and impose the sentence of two years imprisonment as mandated by law. Since both accused persons had already served four months imprisonment in the form of community service, they were to serve an effective term of 20 months imprisonment.
The court considered an application for a provisional order seeking an interim interdict restraining the respondents from interfering in the applicant’s mining operations. A dispute arose between the parties concerning the boundary between their two claims. It was argued that the commissioner found that the respondent was working outside one of his claims and inside one claim belonging to the applicant.
The court considered whether the interim relief sought should be granted. The court found that the respondent acknowledged that the claim belonged to the applicant but that the commissioner erred in determining that the boundary was within the applicant’s claim. The court held that the applicant had established a prima facie right which required legal protection and that the respondent was entitled to challenge the commissioner’s determination.
The court found further that the respondent did not exercise their right to challenge the determination by the commissioner but rather chose to write letters of complaint which were not sufficient. The court stated that the respondent ought to have formally challenged the commissioner’s boundary determination and in the circumstances could not legally resist the interdict sought by the applicant. The court therefore granted the interdict.
The court considered an application to review a sentence imposed on the accused. The accused was charged with contravening s 3(1) of the Gold Trade Act by virtue of being found in possession of 0.62g of gold valued at $20.62. The accused pleaded guilty and was convicted. The lower court imposed a short sentence whereas as the act stipulated of not less than 5 years for persons found guilty of the offence, unless special circumstances existed showing cause why the mandatory sentence should not be imposed. The magistrate relied on special circumstances pleaded in mitigation.
The special circumstances referred to by the accused were that his wife was in hospital and was going to undergo surgery and that he committed the offence to raise hospital fees and money for the surgery
The court found that these were not special circumstances as envisaged by the act but that what the accused relied on was a common occurrence and did not entail that persons in such situations ought to resort to crime. The court held further, that his illegal action was not a solution to this problem nor would $20 be enough to pay the hospital bills.
The court held that there was no reason why the mandatory sentence should not be imposed. Accordingly, the court set aside the sentence imposed by the trial court and remitted it back to impose the mandatory sentence.
This was a case in the High Court where two accused persons were convicted on their own pleas of guilty to contravening s 368 of the Mines and Minerals Act by the Provincial Magistrate.
Having found special circumstances as would entitle the trial court to impose a sentence other than the mandatory one provided in the act; the magistrate sentenced each of the accused persons to 24 months imprisonment of which 12 months imprisonment were suspended for 5 years on condition of good future behaviour. The remaining 12 months were suspended on condition they each complete 420 hours of community service.
The issue before the court was to determine the special circumstances as found by the trial court. The judge applied the rule of Judge J Ebrahim in S v Mbewe and others 1988 (1) ZLR 7(H) to make the determination. The judge’s view was that the trial court erred because the issues put up by the accused were mitigating factors of general application which clearly did not amount to special circumstances at all.
Consequently, the judge ordered that the conviction of the two accused persons stood, and set aside the finding of the trial magistrate that there were special circumstances; and the sentence. The judge also ordered the matter to be sent back to the trial court for it to recall the accused persons and impose the appropriate sentence according to law by deducting from it 53 days equivalent to 420 hours community service already served.
The court considered an application for the granting of an order to evict the respondent pending the hearing of an appeal. The applicant was the registered title holder of four mineral claims. It instituted action seeking an eviction of the respondent from its registered claims, which was subsequently granted. The dispute between the parties related to ownership and mining claims of the minerals. It was not disputed that the mineral claims were registered in the name of the applicant.
The court considered the parties’ rights of ownership of the minerals. These rights were governed by s 172 of the Mines and Minerals Act, which stated that every holder of a registered block of claim would possess the exclusive right of mining or deposit of the mineral in respect of which the block was registered which occurred within the vertical limits of his block. The court found that the applicant had the exclusive right as the registered holder of the claim.
The court found that to suspend the eviction pending the appeal would entitle the respondent to continue mining, which was an untenable situation and would create a judicial anomaly where the court became a party to the respondent’s unlawful conduct. Accordingly, the court granted the application.
The court considered an application for review concerning the forfeiture of gold whereby the respondent was found guilty of contravening s 8(1) of the Gold Trade Act. The accused owned a jewelry shop whereby he traded gold. The Zimbabwe Republic Police Gold Squad regularly visited the accused’s shop to ensure that he was complying with the act. On one visit, it became clear that the accused had not registered 8.59g of gold into the register as required by the act.
The court found that after the conviction of the accused, a review of the record revealed that the learned magistrate had not made an order for the forfeiture of the gold. Despite the accused attempting to secure the return of the gold, he was informed it had been forfeited to the state. Pursuant to the accused’s investigation, and obtaining the record again, the record appeared to make reference to the forfeiture of the gold.
The court found that the only explanation was that the trial magistrate entered the forfeiture clause well after the sentence had been imposed and the accused started claiming the gold. In conclusion, the court found that the conviction and sentence were adequate but held that the forfeiture clause contained in the record be set aside and the accused be sentenced afresh.
In the High Court, an appellant was applying for bail pending his appeal against both conviction and sentence by the trial court, having been convicted of contravening s368(2) as read with s368(4) of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:01] that is, prospecting for gold without a licence. He had been sentenced to two years, being the mandatory minimum penalty for that offence after the magistrate failed to find any special circumstances.
The issue before the court was to exercise its discretion on whether to grant bail to the appellant. The court held that in exercising the discretion on whether or not to grant bail pending appeal, the court must be guided by the prospects of success on appeal and whether there is risk that the applicant would abscond. The judge held that from the court record there was a problem with the rebuttal of the applicant’s defence in the trial court. The applicant had argued that he was carrying a pot and a lid when the police pounced, but state witnesses alleged that he carried a shovel.
The judge was satisfied that the applicant had discharged the responsibility upon him and that the court should indeed exercise its discretion in the applicant’s favour. Accordingly, the judge granted the application on condition that he deposited a sum of $100.00 with the Clerk of Court, he resided at a particular village and to report at a police station twice a week on Mondays and Fridays between 6.00 am and 6.00 pm.
In this case, the High Court considered a murder charge and whether the defence of private defence and/or the defence of property was sufficient to warrant an acquittal.
The accused was employed as a security guard by a private security company. While on duty he shot and killed an illegal diamond panner. Against the murder charge, the accused raised the defence of private defence and the defence of property. The facts were not disputed that the accused and his colleague were attacked by a mob of illegal panners who threatened to kill them. The accused fired a warning shot but the mob persisted until he fired the deadly shot which dispersed the mob.
The court held that the accused was lawfully employed to protect the employer’s assets from theft and entitled by law to protect himself. The court found that in this case a warning shot had been given and the life of the accused was in danger. The court held further that the action in self-defence was not disproportionate or unreasonable. Accordingly, the court found the accused not guilty and he was acquitted.
Constitutional law – Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013 – Declaration of Rights – right to water (s 77) – legislative measures to ensure supply of potable water – duty of urban council to ensure water distributed fairly
Human rights – right to water – legislative measures to ensure supply of potable water – duty of urban council to ensure water distributed fairly
The court considered a criminal appeal against the sentence imposed on the accused.
The accused was convicted, on his own guilty plea, for contravening s 3(1)(a) of the Gold Trade Act by being in possession of 0.15 grams of gold without authorisation.
The evidence revealed that the accused was asked whether there were any special circumstances, which the court below established did not exist and sentenced him to the mandatory minimum sentence.
The accused argued that the trial judge did not explain in full what special circumstances meant and the inadequate explanation prejudiced him. The respondent agreed and stated that the explanation was “special or extraordinary mitigating factors” where it should have referred to special circumstances.
The court found that the Act did not define special circumstances, and it was on a case by case basis. However, the court below took all necessary steps to explain the meaning and import of special circumstances, which was given in clear unambiguous terms.
The court found that the accused was not an illiterate person and appreciated what was taking place and there was nothing preventing him from asking the magistrate for clarity. Further, that the accused’s conduct once arrested, in running away illustrated a guilty state of mind.
The court found that the accused’s special circumstance of “being the only breadwinner” was clear that he was aware of the offence being committed. As such, the court found no merit in the appeal.