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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The court considered an appeal against a decision of the High Court dismissing an application for a remedy over a land dispute on the grounds that there were disputes of fact that could not be ascertained, which the appellants should have foreseen.
The first, second and third appellants were members of the fourth appellant, a company of Swazi indigenous people, formed to co-ordinate the ploughing of sugar cane by indigenous Swazis. The first and second respondent were adult Swazis employed by a wildlife business undertaking.
The court considered 1) whether the application should have been dismissed due to a failure by the applicants to join parties who had a substantial interest in the matter, and 2) whether the applicants succeeded in establishing that they were in peaceful and undisturbed possession of the land when they were evicted.
The court found that the appellants did not attempt to join, as respondents, two parties, including a trust controlling the wildlife business undertaking, which had a direct interest in the disputed land. The appellants argued that a trust is not a juristic person, but the court found that legal proceedings can be brought by and against a trust. It was also established that before they moved onto the land the appellants had already been removed from that land and were aware that their right to occupy the land was disputed. Based on the court’s findings and failure to comply with the rules in the filing of heads of argument, the appeal was dismissed[kb1].
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.
This was an application for an order of remedy of spoliation and an interdict.
The applicantĺs main argument was that the actions of the respondentsĺ occupation of the diamond mining site at the Chiadzwa Concession amounted to an act of spoliation against the fifth respondent.
Firstly, the court determined whether the applicant (a foreign company) was required to furnish security for the costs of the respondents before the application could proceed. The court noted that such orders are matters of its discretion and are only issued when there is a reason to believe that a company will be unable to pay the costs of the suit.
Secondly, the court found that the second to fourth respondents had come to court with Ĺdirty handsĺ but had cleansed themselves.
Thirdly, it was held that the applicant (a shareholder of the fifth respondent) had the locus standi to bring the derivative action as an exception to the rule in Foss v Harbottle  2 Hare 461, 67 ER 189.
Finally, the court found that the applicant had proved the elements of spoliation: peaceful and undisturbed possession and the act of spoliation on a balance of probabilities. However, the court held that allowing the fifth respondent to resume mining operations as before, when the right to do so expired, would be contrary to public policy. Nevertheless, the court noted that the applicant was entitled to a final order and ordered the restoration of its rights when the validity of the special grants was regularized.
This was an application to interdict the respondent from disconnecting water supplies from the applicant’s property without a court order and from charging commercial rates for the use of water from the said property.
The applicant submitted that the respondent was infringing on their right to water as provided in s 77(a) of the constitution. In interpreting the right to water, the court found that the right empowers local authorities to levy rates to raise revenue for service provision and does not prohibit disconnections of water services for non-payment. Additionally, the court held that the right to water contains the protection against arbitrary and illegal disconnections. Consequently, when a bill is genuinely disputed there should be recourse to the court before disconnection as per s 69 (3) of the constitution and the holding in Mushoriwa v City of Harare HH 195/14.
The court held that the applicant had proved his right to water but failed to prove the genuineness of his claim, since he did not provide proof letters of complaint disputing the bills. This also had a negative bearing on the grant of the interdict order.
The court also found that the applicant converted domestic premises for use as commercial premises and was not entitled to be charged domestic rates.
The court also noted that the applicant failed to give adequate information which would show that the respondent did not follow the correct procedure in zoning and rating it.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
This was an application for an interim relief of setting aside the first respondent’s directive that ordered the applicant to cease their diamond mining operations after the applicant’s rights in a ceded portion of a special grant 4765 expired.
The applicant argued that clause 8 of the grant allowed it to work the sites which were ceded to it for an indefinite period of time. The first respondent countered this on the basis of s 291 of the Mines and Minerals Act that requires special grants to be issued for a specified period of time.
Further, the first respondent argued that no real cession had occurred since the applicant as the holder of the ceded and ‘residual’ portions of the grant were operating outside the law.
The court noted that the first respondent gave the applicants a 5-year period to renew the grant when they allowed the grant to operate outside the law before declaring it invalid, and the applicants still failed to renew it. For this reason, the applicant was found to have approached the court with ‘dirty hands’ since it was in breach of the condition of the special grant and s 29 of the act.
The applicant failed to prove that the first respondent acted unlawfully, unreasonably or disproportionately for the court to apply its review discretion. The court, therefore, held that the first respondent was right in exercising its administrative discretion and pronouncing what the law said.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
This was an appeal against the decision of the lower court ’s offer of E110 000.00 as compensation.
The respondent constructed a sewage pipeline across the property belonging to the appellant. In terms of s 5 of the Water Services Corporation Act of1992, the respondent was obliged to compensate the appellant for the damage sustained on the property. For the damage done to the property the appellant sued the respondent for the payment of E350 000.00, interest and costs of suit.
The issue was whether the appellant was entitled to the sum of E350 000.00 based on the valuation report of an expert as opposed to the sum of value of the property in the sum of E110 000.00.
The court found that while the appellant alleged that the property was rendered of no value and therefore entitled to the sum of E350 000.00 being the market value of the said property, the expert evidence of one witness, stated that the entire property was not rendered valueless by the construction of the sewage pipe, as a percentage of it was still usable. Since the appellant failed to prove what the sum of E350 000.00 claimed represented, the court had no choice than to accept the offer of E110 000.00 from the respondents.
The view of the judge of the Supreme Court was that the reasoning of the learned judge of the lower court was undisputable. Subsequently the judges of the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal with costs.
The court considered an appeal against the conviction and sentence of the appellant, for the killing of an animal, possession of government trophy and failure to report being in possession of government trophy.
The appellant sought leniency and a lighter sentence on the ground that he had reformed. The respondent opposed the appeal and urged the court to uphold, both the conviction and sentence, and maintained that the evidence by the prosecution’s witnesses established the case against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether at the trial, there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction and sentence of the appellant.
The court found that although the evidence was circumstantial, there was no plausible explanation as to how the appellant came to be in possession of the tusks stolen from the dead elephant. Further that between the discovery of the carcass and arrest of the appellant, there were no intervening factors to weaken the inference of guilt.
The court observed that the appellant was sentenced under the earlier Wildlife Conservation Act, Chapter 376 which had since been repealed. The sentence was more lenient than those introduced by the amended act, thus the sentence was neither excessive, nor wrong. Accordingly, the court held that the appellant had been properly convicted and dismissed the appeal on both sentence and conviction.
This was an application for a spoliation order to summarily undo the wrongful deprivation of property without investigating the merits.
The applicants claimed that their immovable property (10 Metcalf Road, Greendale) and equipment for water abstraction were seized by the first to sixth respondents.
The first to the sixth respondents raised two preliminary objections: that the matter was not urgent and that there was need for police to join as co-respondents since they were the ones who had seized the applicants’ property. The first objection was abandoned while the second was dealt with in the merits of the case.
The court noted that the applicants were required to prove peaceful and undisturbed control before the disturbance and that the respondent took or destroyed the control unlawfully. However, the applicant would not succeed if the respondent proved valid defenses like they did not commit the spoliation or that they were not involved in the spoliation.
The court found that the applicants were in peaceful and undisturbed possession of the property and equipment although, illegally. However, the court noted that the applicants claimed that they were despoiled of their equipment by the first to sixth respondents who were not natural persons but failed to state who acted on their behalf. The court therefore held that the respondents were not involved in the despoiling.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
Constitutional law – Constitution of Zimbabwe 1980 – Declaration of Rights – right to protection of the law – prosecution of former farm employees for unlawfully remaining on farm after acquisition – legislation creating an offence to do so constitutional – no constitutional issue arising
Land – acquisition – former employees remaining on farm – no right to do so – employment ceased on acquisition of farm – liable to prosecution for occupying gazetted land without lawful authority
The origin of the application is an interim interdict prohibiting the first, second and third respondents from carrying out mining activities and ordering the fourth and fifth respondents to clear illegals who were working at the mine. The first respondent sought a review of this order and got an interim interdict that ordered for the eviction of the applicant and prohibition from mining.
This application arose when the applicant sought direction from the judges in chambers for anticipation of a return date and also rescinding the eviction order.
The court applied Order 33 of the High Court Rules and held that the pending review suspended the operation of the order issued in the magistrate court. Consequently, the applicant could not exercise the rights conferred upon him unless the review was determined in his favor.
The court found that the mine lies in the applicant’s plot. However, the court found it important for peace to prevail at the mine and that both parties be removed from the mine pending resolution of their dispute.
The court held that the applicant was able to prove all the requirements of an interdict: he had a right to mine; he would suffer irreparable damage if the respondent continued with their mining operations; he had no alternative remedy and he proved his case on a balance of probabilities against the respondent.
Accordingly, the interdict was granted pending the resolution of the dispute and the security guards of both parties were ordered to guard the mine jointly.
The applicant instituted proceedings by urgent chamber applications seeking interim relief against the respondents relating to mining activities in Antelope 68 Mine.
The court ruled on three preliminary objections by the first and second respondents that opposed the validity of the certificate of urgency, the urgency of the matter and that domestic remedies provided in the Mines and Minerals Act were not exhausted.
Firstly, the court noted that a certificate of urgency differs from an affidavit. It was held that the rules allowed the execution of a certificate of urgency by a legal practitioner who is employed by the firm of attorneys which represents the applicant. It was further noted that the validity of the certificate urgency is a cause of concern only when a chamber application is not served to the respondent.
Secondly, the court found that a party must show good cause for preferential treatment that comes with certifying a matter as urgent. The court held that the applicant failed to account for his failure to seek relief on an urgent basis at the very latest soon after the early March invasion when the respondents continued to go to the mine. Consequently, it was held that the matter lost its urgency when the applicant failed to treat it as urgent.
Accordingly, the court ordered that the matter be struck off the roll of urgent matters and did not find it necessary to deal with the third objection. The applicant was also ordered to pay costs.
This was an application for the discharge of the accused persons for lack of evidence pursuant to s 198 (3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The state had alleged that the accused persons were acting in common purpose through a series of fraudulent misrepresentations to the Government of Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and induced ZMDC to enter into a joint venture agreement of diamond mining with Core Mining (Pvt) Ltd. They fronted Benny Steinmeitz Group Resources (BSGR) as its guarantor and on that representation, the government approved a contract, it never would have otherwise approved.
Relying on the parole evidence rule that posits that parties are strictly bound by the four corners of the contractual document and nothing outside it, the court held that both government and ZMDC cannot be heard to complain that they were duped into signing the contractual document under the mistaken belief that BSGR was standing as guarantor for Core Mining when the contractual document makes no mention of BSGR at all.
Court further held that the state closed its case without leading any evidence pertaining to the misrepresentations allegedly made by the accused concerning the due diligence exercise on Core Mining. That misrepresentation is a vital component of the crime of fraud without which the crime cannot be committed. The state having failed to establish a prima facie case against the accused, it was accordingly ordered that both accused be acquitted and discharged.
This was an application by the plaintiff seeking an order declaring the first and second defendants’ construction of a milling plant and prospecting activities as unlawful, for interfering with the plaintiff’s agricultural activities.
The first defendant opposed the reliefs sought, on grounds that he was the lawful owner of the mining blocks.
The court first assessed the evidence and concluded that the defendants were not in compliance of the procedures set out under the Mines and Minerals Act, for registering the claims and the subsequent conversion into blocks. The court further held that the defendants failed to show any plan lodged with the Commissioner of Mines, as required under the Mines and Minerals Act.
Lastly, the court determined whether the land in dispute was cleared on or before the registration of the blocks and whether such land is the only portion, suitable of for farming. After outlining the rights of various parties, the court concluded that the plaintiff had no right to clear the land pegged for mining. However, the court could not make a holding on whether the prospecting operations were interfering with the plaintiff’s agricultural activities. This is because the plaintiff failed to
clarify whether the cleared field was located 450 metres from the principal homestead. The court therefore referred this issue to the Mining Commissioner for investigation and report, according to s 345 of the Mines and Minerals Act.
The court ordered the defendants to stop mining operations without complying with the law and to pay costs.
This was an urgent chamber application by the applicant in the High Court to interdict the first respondent from carrying out mining operations on its claim; from interfering with its lawful mining operations; and to desist from acts of uncontrolled violence they had unleashed at the site.
The issue before the court was to determine whether the Mining Commissioner should revisit the same dispute. The first respondent contended that the matter was not urgent since the dispute between the parties had been resolved in favour of the first respondent by the Mining Commissioner. However, it was found that the respondent had been ordered to stop but had allegedly resumed illegal activity.
The court held that in terms of s345(1) of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05] where both parties have agreed in writing, the Mining Commissioner should resolve the dispute regardless of the original jurisdiction of the High Court. It was also found that s346 confers upon the Mining Commissioner judicial power to hold a court in order to determine a dispute in the simplest, speediest and cheapest manner possible. The court held that the Mining Commissioner exercised judicial power including the rules of natural justice and that once he pronounced himself on a matter, he became functus officio and so cannot revisit the same dispute in order to review his own decision.
The court held that the applicant had exhibited proof of lawful registration of the mining claims. Consequently, the appeal succeeded.
The court considered an appeal against the High Court’s decision not to interdict arbitration proceedings.
The facts leading to the appeal were that a joint venture was entered into by the appellant and two mining companies. A dispute subsequently arose which the appellant claimed rendered the contract void ab initio. The first respondent sought a declaration that the contract was valid and soon after, referred the dispute to arbitration. However, the parties failed to agree on an arbitrator and one was appointed by an arbitral institution. Although the appellant boycotted a pre-arbitration meeting, the arbitrator proceeded, identified preliminary issues, and ordered the parties to file submissions. This prompted the appellant to file an urgent application to prevent the arbitration proceedings. The High Court’s refusal grant the interdict is what the appellant appealed against.
Before considering the appeal, the court observed that it was strange that the there was no nexus between the relief sought in the court below and that sought on appeal. The court went on to point out that the appellant refused to correct an error in its citation of the respondent in the proceedings but instead sought to hold out the matter as undefended. This was an abuse of court process. On this basis alone the proceedings could not be sustained.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. The court held that the wrong citation was compounded by the appellant’s refusal to rectify the error and made an order for exemplary costs.
The applicant in this High Court case was seeking interim orders that (1) the first and second respondent be ordered to restore the supply of water from Blanket Dam in Gwanda to the applicant’s mine; (2) the first and the second respondent be interdicted from interfering with the applicant’s possession of his water supply infrastructure without obtaining a court order to that effect.
The facts were that the first and second respondent disconnected the water supply that fed the applicants mine and the neighbouring community. The applicants argued that the respondents infringed its right to water under s77 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The respondents, on the other side, argued that the matter was not urgent, and they were entitled to disconnect the water supply as the applicant failed to pay the water bills, thereby ending the contract between them.
Thus, the main issue for determination was whether the applicant had satisfied the requirement for an interim order to be issued;
On the first issue, the Court held that the applicant had satisfied the requirements for an interim order which are, (i) prima facie right; (ii) reasonable apprehension of irreparable injury; (iii) no alternative relief available; (iv) and the balance of convenience favouring the granting of the interdict.
As a result, the interim order was allowed pending the main trial and the hearing of the interdict.
The court considered an appeal against the conviction and sentence of the appellant. The appellant had been convicted and sentenced for wrongfully, and unlawfully possessing 269 grains of concentrates containing gold, valued at $1 896,23 while not being the holder of a licence or permit, and not being the employee of any permit or licence holder, in contravention of s 3 of the Gold Trade Act.
In considering the evidence, the court noted that a detective constable jumped over the fence towards the back of the house and saw the appellant (who had a smelting pot in his hand) and another person. The constable succeeded in grabbing a plastic bag protruding from the appellant's pocket as he ran through a gate, dropping two gold stones in the process. The appellant was later arrested, giving a warned and cautioned statement, in the presence of his legal practitioner.
The court upheld that although the statement made it very clear that the appellant knew that gold was being smelted in his workshop, his defence was that he was unaware of that fact until the police were about to come on the scene. This explanation might have raised a modicum of doubt but since it had been confirmed some months later in the presence of the appellant's legal representative, it was inherently improbable.
The court found that on that state of the evidence, it was quite clear that the conviction was fully justified on the facts and the appeal was thus dismissed.
This case concerned an appeal against the appellant’s conviction and the decision to sentence him to six months imprisonment, of which 3 months were suspended for a period of 5 years on condition of future good behaviour.
The appellant, a self-admitted illegal gold dealer, approached three men to buy gold. After paying, he discovered that he bought fake gold. To recover his money, he lied to the police, indicating that he was robbed by the three men. The police arrested them and during their interrogation realized that the appellant had lied to them. The appellant was then arrested and admitted that he made a false report.
While the appellant pleaded guilty, he appealed against the sentence imposed arguing that it did not take into account mitigating factors. He also submitted that the court should have considered a fine as an alternative sentence.
The appeal court found that it should not lightly interfere with the lower court’s sentencing discretion. Further, that the lower court did take into account mitigating factors, such as the fact that the appellant pleaded guilty and was a first offender. It further noted that the court had to also consider aggravating factors, especially the fact that the appellant was an illegal gold dealer trying to use the police as debt collector.
The appeal court held that the lower court adequately took into account all relevant factors and imposed a fair sentence.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
Criminal law – defences – ignorance or mistake of law – acting in accordance with advice given by official whom the appellant had reason to believe was charged with administration of the law– mistake or ignorance of the law a defence when directly brought about by such advice
Environment – environmental impact assessment – requirement for – such requirement additional to considerations for issue of mining permit
This was an urgent application by the applicant, seeking an order to stop the respondents from mining gold ore from an area which the applicant had a prospecting licence.
The court set out the requirements of an interdict and held that the applicant was required to prove the existence of a prima facie right. Secondly, that there was an injury actually committed or reasonably apprehended. Thirdly, that there was an absence of a similar or adequate remedy. Lastly, that the balance of convenience favoured the grant of the relief.
The court pointed out that the applicant had other remedies available. Such remedies included using the Ministry of Mines to demarcate the area between the parties. Secondly, ore claimed by the applicants was held as an exhibit in a criminal case, thereby removing urgency in the application and any irreparable harm that could be occasioned by waiting.
Accordingly, the court declined to deal with the matter on urgent basis, dismissed the application and ordered the applicants to pay the respondents’ costs on an ordinary scale.
This was an application for a decree of perpetual silence against the respondents for engaging in lawsuits aimed at harassing the applicants. The dispute between the parties emanated from certain claims in a mine, which resulted in over 30 court applications between the parties.
The court first dealt with the nature of the relief sought by the applicants. The court after citing authorities pointed out that the relief is recognised in the jurisdiction of the court. The court pointed out that in cases where repeated and persistent litigation between parties, in the the same cause of action, the court can make a general order prohibiting the institution of such litigation without the leave of the court. It was noted that such a remedy is extraordinary as it makes a person deaf before the court. The court also pointed out that the remedy is only granted where a party demonstrates to the court that the defendant or respondent is a serial litigator, with a tendency to abuse the court, the court process and the other party.
In dismissing the application, the court dealt with the history of the litigants and concluded that the respondents had a defined cause and were not serial litigators.
The court dismissed the application with costs on a higher scale.