The Environmental Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from 10 African countries on topics relating to environmental law, both substantive and procedural. The collection focuses on cases where an environmental interest interacts with governmental or private interests.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-area expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
Read also JIFA's Environmental Country Reports for SADC
This was an application for a temporary injunction to restrain the respondent from cutting down trees, felling logs and trees remaining into or dealing in whatever manner with the applicant’s parcel of land.
The matter before the court was whether the applicant had established a prima facie case with a probability of success to entitle him to an injunction.
The court held that the definition of land includes trees which may be growing on the land and the respondent did not have the capacity to question the manner in which the applicant acquired his title deed as the validity of the title deed was not in issue.
The court held that the applicant had established a prima facie case with a likelihood of success as against the respondent and agreed with the applicant that unless the orders sought were granted the applicant would suffer irreparable loss as all the tree on his land would be cut down and ferried away by the respondent. The applicant had therefore satisfied the tests for grant of temporary injunctions. The court also held that the balance of convenience tilted in favour of the applicant.
The court granted the orders sought by the applicant and directed him to mark out the boundaries of his land if the same were not clear so that the respondent may exclude it from its operations. The court also awarded costs of the application to the applicant.
This was a review against the respondent’s decisions to set apart land on Funzi Island and grant registration titles to Pati Limited. The applicant prayed for prohibition and certiorari orders since the respondent made the decisions in excess of its jurisdiction and power.
The applicant argued that the land in dispute was forest land, and that no allotment could have legally taken place on the land unless there was a declaration that it had ceased to be forest land. The court found that when the proceedings commenced, it was assumed that the land was trust land, and despite argument, the applicant failed to adduce enough evidence to prove that the land was forest land. The land was thus declared to be trust land.
Secondly on the applicant’s disputed locus standi, the court found that the applicant’s properties were separated by about 200 metres from the disputed property. Further, the court found that even if the land was forest land, only the authorities in the Ministry in charge of the forest lands had the capacity to defend it. Consequently, it was held that the applicants lacked the requisite locus standi.
Finally, the court found that the respondent complied with the requirements in the Trust Act and dismissed the orders prayed for.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
This matter determined whether the principles of granting an injunction should be applied differently in environmental litigation.
The applicants sought an injunction to restrain the respondents from mining and excavation activities which were likely to trigger environmental and health problems. The respondents argued that they were not mining but prospecting and had a license to do so.
The court determined that the applicants had the necessary locus standi by virtue of being persons entitled to a clean and healthy environment as per s3(2) of the Environment Management and Coordination Act (EMCA).
The court determined whether the grounds for the grant of an injunction were satisfied by the application. The court noted that breaches of the environmental statute must be looked at without the trappings of the law on injunctions but rather in line with the principles under s3 of the EMCA.
The court established that anybody who intends to mine or conduct prospecting activities is required to submit a project report and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) as per s58 of the EMCA. It was further held that where the provision is not complied with, it is immaterial whether such person had a license. The court found that the respondent failed to comply with the provisions of the act and declared the respondent’s activities illegal.
The injunction was granted since the environmental factors were not taken into account before the project commenced.
The court considered an appeal, whereby the plaintiff was claiming pecuniary damages incurred for cleaning up an oil leak into the harbour, for which the defendant was allegedly responsible.
The defence pleaded that the suit was misconceived and that the alleged loss and damage were not recoverable in law. Further, that the plaintiff disclosed no cause of action and that the case ought to be dismissed. The plaintiff relied on two causes of action, the first in negligence and the second, in terms of the strict liability rule.
The high court held that the only damage proved to have been caused by the oil leak was to the sea water surrounding the harbour, and that the plaintiff did not own that water. Thus, the plaintiff had not suffered any damage to its property and further that in bringing oil to its land in the port area, the defendant was not making a non-natural use of the land.
On appeal, the court held that the plaintiff suffered no actual damage to any of its property as water was not the property of the plaintiff, and pecuniary loss arising out of purely precautionary measures taken to clean up pollution, which might cause damage to property, is not recoverable at common law. It held that the storage of oil on land by a person licensed to generate electricity there, the oil being essential for the production of electricity, did not amount to a non-natural user of the land.
The petitioners in this matter contented that since 1998, the fourth and fifth respondents had played excessively loud music at night thus causing the petitioners and other residents sleepless nights. The respondents operated an entertainment spot located near a residential area and learning institutions and whose main entertainment menu was the playing of very loud music. The petitioners alleged that the noise interfered with their peace and quiet enjoyment of their properties and violated their right to a clean and healthy environment.
In order to prove that the noise and vibration levels from the respondent’s restaurant were excessive, the petitioners used self-made instruments that were not approved by a relevant lead agency or any person appointed by the National Environmental Management Authority.
This was against the requirements of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act. Therefore, the petition had to fall, although the learned Judge noted that the petitioners had a noble claim.
The matter dealt with a petition of appeal arising out of a dispute over the destruction of the respondent’s crops by wild animals that entered the respondent’s farm.
The court considered whether s3A(l) of the Wildlife Act, imposed liability on the appellant to compensate for loss or destruction of crop. The court held that s3A(l) imposed a duty on the appellant to protect the crops from destruction by wildlife and compensate for destruction.
The court considered whether there is a common law obligation under the principle in Donoghue v Stevenson 1932 SC (HL) 31 and the rule in Ryland v Fletcher  LR 1Ex 265 on the appellant to compensate for damage or destruction caused by wildlife. The court found that neither were applicable to the present matter based on the facts of the case.
The court considered whether damage caused by migrating wildlife is an act of God. Consideration must be given to the question whether the event was reasonably foreseeable. Migration of wildlife is an annual occurrence thus, foreseeable and so not an act of God.
The court considered whether the government ought to be liable for destruction by wildlife. Factually, the appellant had the duty of control of the wildlife because of s3A of the Wildlife Act and so the court held that liability for the damage fell on the appellant.
Court of Appeal judgment upheld.
The matter dealt with an application to release the applicant’s motor vehicle which was being detained by the Kenya Forest Service pursuant to an order of forfeiture.
The court held that the right to forfeit private property must be subject to both the constitution and the enabling statute.
The court held that the key elements in an application by the state seeking forfeiture in a criminal proceeding are that:
(a) The state must establish the requisite nexus between the property and the offence;
(b) The courts determination may be based on evidence already on record including any plea and or adduced evidence accepted by the court as relevant;
(c) If the court seeks to forfeit a specific property, a notice of the order must be sent to any person who reasonably might appear to be a potential claimant with standing to contest the forfeiture;
(d) This is more so when in practical terms the seized property would be in the hand of an agent, employee, or servant of the person with proprietary interest or right;
(e) Furthermore, as a form of punishment the principle of proportionality ought to apply.
The court held that, a presumptive innocent person whose property is a subject of criminal proceedings should not lose the property without an opportunity to be heard. In the present case, the order on forfeiture was disproportionate to the nature and gravity of the offence and there was a failure to serve notice. Accordingly, the order on forfeiture was quashed.
The court considered a petition whereby the petitioner sought an order of certiorari to quash a Gazette Notice declaring his land to be forest land. The petitioner had entered into a sale agreement with the original owner of the land by which the parties agreed to a down payment upon successful application to the land control board. The Petitioner took immediate possession and contracted to pay the balance of the purchase price after the maize season. The application was made and rejected due to the Ministry of Natural Resource’s interest in the land. Subsequently, the land control board met and the petitioner’s application was granted, however, the land was transferred to the government and marked a forest.
The petitioner argued that during the dispute, its members were harassed and evicted from their farms, with their houses being torched.
The court found that there was no doubt that the petitioner had entered into a sale agreement. Further, the control board acted in a manner to deny the petitioner the land. The court found that based on a letter received from the Commissioner of Land, there was a clear acknowledgment of foul play in the manner in which the government came to buy the land. Further, the government had deprived the petitioner of its right to land and subjected its members to poverty. In conclusion, the court held that the land was to be placed in the name of the petitioner as it was the rightful and lawful owner.
This case concerned a constitutional petition in which the petitioners sought a declaration that the creation of a national reserve through the legal notice 86 of 2000 was unlawful. The court considered the effect of legal notice and whether it was published or degazetted in violation of the law. Lastly, the court considered whether the rights of the community were violated.
The court determined whether the notice was published without consultation and observed that consultations were held between the minister and the county council. The court then considered whether the former president’s alleged verbal revocation of the legal notice at a public rally was a lawful avenue for the revocation of a legal notice. The court held that the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act provided mechanisms on how to withdraw a declaration and as a result, the president had no power to revoke any declaration.
On this basis, the court held that the claim by the petitioners that the land in question was degazetted to be available for their use could not be sustained. In conclusion, the court held that the petitioners failed to show how their rights were violated and therefore could not rely on the new constitution and the act to claim the infringement of their rights. Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition without an order of costs.
The applicants sought a declaratory order, to prevent the respondents from prosecuting them on for the alleged neglecting of their functions under the applicable laws which resulted in the collapse of a dam, injury and loss of life. The court considered whether the applicants’ application amounted to a defence, suitable for determination in the lower court and whether the respondents’ actions in charging the applicants were irrational, unreasonable and procedurally unfair.
The court observed in the first place, that it had no capacity to interfere with lawful exercise of the constitutional and statutory powers of the respondents. The court however stated that in appropriate cases, it was empowered to issue judicial review orders, where there was abuse of power by public authorities. The court further held that the applicable legal provisions, including the constitution place certain duties on public office bearers, particularly the applicants.
The court held that on account of the tragic incident, the actions of the respondents to bring criminal charges against the applicants were not unreasonable or irrational. The court therefore declined to issue the declaratory order, arguing that it was in the public interest that the applicants be subjected to the criminal trial. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
The matter concerned an allegation that the accused’s filling stations presented an environmental risk. Having been granted leave, the prosecutor, an environmental advocacy organisation instituted a private prosecution in the Gauteng Division of the High Court against the accused, a fuel supplies company.
The prosecutor claimed that it had complied with all the legislative requirements set out in s33 of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 to enable it to initiate such a prosecution. Counts 1 to 21 of the indictment alleged that the accused had contravened ss 21(1), 22(1) and 29(4) of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1986 (“ECA”) as read together with other supporting environmental legislation. The said s 22(2) provided that authorisation of activities like construction of a service station would only be issued after consideration of reports concerning their impact on the environment. The accused formally pleaded to the charges divided into two sections. The first was a plea under s 106(1)(h) denying the prosecutor’s entitlement to prosecute and the other was a plea of not guilty under s 106(1)(b).
The court held that the claim under s 106(1)(h) on defence of want of title to prosecute failed. The court concluded that the prosecutor's case was straightforward and that the accused breached a duty relating to the protection of the environment. It held that in terms of s22(1) of the ECA the undertaking of certain identified activities was prohibited without written authorisation. The accused was convicted on 17 counts and acquitted on four.
The matter dealt with coal mining operations occurring adjacent to a public park in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The first and second applicants were a registered trust pursuing environmental causes and an association of members of communities affected by open-cast mining in the area respectively. The applicants, in the public interest or alternatively affected parties, sought an interdict to shut the mine down completely for being in contravention of s 24 and s 38 of the South African Constitution. The relief sought was subsequently altered to an application to prevent illegal mining. Of the nine respondents cited, the first respondent, a mining company opposed the grant of any relief against it.
The court considered whether the first respondent complied with various national, provincial and local government legislative instruments. The court noted that the applicants were not entirely sure if the interdict they sought was final or interim. The court concluded that the applicants failed to make out a proper case for the relief as claimed, since they failed to put up convincing evidence to support their contentions that the first respondent was mining unlawfully and without the requisite authorisations. The court found that the applicants had not afforded the concerned authorities the opportunity to fully investigate their complaints before deciding to institute proceedings. The court cited various statutes that created regulatory authorities which were empowered to enforce compliance with the statutes they administered. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
This was an application for review of the respondent’s decision to authorise the construction of a lodge in a protected area. The lodge was built prior to obtaining the necessary environmental authorisation but this was obtained ex post facto. The applicant had at the time of filing this application alos filed an application for an interdict to stop the construction of the lodge, which application was dismissed.
The main legal issue to be resolved was whether under the National Environmental Management Act No 107 of 1998 (NEMA) a permit to build a house in the Protected Environment (MPE) could be issued ex post facto as was given to the third respondent by the first and second respondents.
The court held that section 24 G of NEMA provided for the rectification of the unlawful commencement of the activity by applying to the Minister or MEC for an ex post facto environmental authorisation. In conclusion, the court held that since the application was done and approved ex post facto the respondents had acted within the confines of the law and therefore the application lacked merit. The court observed further that the was aware, or ought to have been aware that when it was unsuccessful in the urgent application to have the development of the Lodge suspended, the consequences were that the respondent would continue with the construction and finalisation of its building project and the review would be rendered academic. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The applicant brought this matter to the Constitutional court as a court of first instance having cited the respondents for their failure to implement legislation aimed at containing pollution and to prosecute state a company alleged to have caused pollution.
The court first had to decide whether it was necessary for the Constitutional Court to be the court of first instance in this matter.
The court stressed that direct access should be granted only in exceptional circumstances. The court stated that justification for direct access was set out in rule 18(2) of the Uniform Rules of the court on the following grounds: if it is in the interests of justice to do so; where the nature of relief sought and the grounds relied upon justify it; whether the matter can be dealt with by the Court without the hearing of oral evidence; and, if it cannot, how evidence should be adduced and conflicts of fact resolved. The court held that these grounds were not satisfied. Therefore the court could not adjudicate further on the allegations against the respondents and dismissed the application. However, in the alternative the court ordered that the Registrar bring the judgment to the attention of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, with a request that it consider whether one of its members may provide assistance to the applicant as the issues were not set out clearly but were of importance and deserved the attention of the court.
This was an appeal to the Constitutional Court against the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the unlawfulness of the water meters under operation “Gcin’amanzi”, a project addressing water losses and non-payment of water services in Soweto. This was done by installing pre-paid meters to charge consumers for use of water in excess of the free 6 kilolitre per household monthly water allowance. With access to water being a constitutionally guaranteed right, the Supreme Court ordered that the applicants supply residents with at least 60litres of water, hence quantifying what “sufficient water” as given in the Constitution.
The court in this matter had to deliberate on what the meaning of “sufficient water” was as required by the Constitution and the lawfulness of the pre-paid water meters.
The Constitutional Court found that it was not appropriate for a court to give a quantified content to what constitutes “sufficient water” because this would be best addressed by the government which pegged it. Further, given that, 80 percent of the households in the City would receive adequate water under the present policy, the Court concluded that it would not have been unreasonable for the City not to have supplied more.
With regard to the pre-paid water meters, the Court held that the national legislation and the City’s own by-laws authorised the local authority to introduce pre-paid water meters as part of Operation Gcin’amanzi. Accordingly, it held that the installation of the meters was neither unfair nor discriminatory.
The matter dealt with an application for leave to appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the first respondent to acquire a prospecting licence in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act over the applicant’s land.
Appeals to the High Court, and later to the Supreme Court were dismissed on the ground that the community had failed to file for review timeously in terms of the provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. The merits of the case were not heard in both matters.
In determining the application, the Constitutional Court considered the following: whether there were internal remedies; whether there was proper consultation and whether consideration was given to the environmental requirements.
It found that an internal appeal was available to the applicants, but the respondents’ failure to deal with the appeal frustrated the process, although the review application had been brought in time. Further, the court held that the granting of prospecting rights was an invasion of a property owner’s rights and that the purpose of consultation with landowners, was to provide them with the information necessary to make an informed decision on how to respond to the application.
The court concluded that the decision-maker had not given the community a hearing or complied with the fairness requirements of the Act, and that the environmental requirements in terms of the Act had not been satisfied. Accordingly, leave to appeal was granted and the prospecting rights on the community’s land were set aside.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold an interdict against the applicant to stop the applicant from mining until the respective land in contention was re-zoned to permit mining in terms of provincial legislation. The minister had earlier granted mining permits to the appellant to mine areas zoned as public open spaces in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. The appellant contended the act was superior to the provincial legislation and Supreme Court had erred in upholding the High Court interdict against it. The appellant had claimed that mining fell under the exclusive competence of national government and that the proposition that provincial legislation regulating municipal planning applied to it would be tantamount to allowing municipal government to intrude into the terrain of the national sphere.
The Constitutional Court in determining whether to grant leave considered whether the provincial legislation that required rezoning did not apply to land used for mining.
The court, in rejecting the applicant’s argument, held that the provincial law and the national law served different purposes which fall within the competences of the local and the national sphere. Each sphere was exercising power allocated to it by the Constitution and regulated by the relevant legislation.
The court concluded that the interdicts were invalidly issued and held further that in order to bring clarity to the application of competing laws, leave to appeal ought to be granted in order to deal with the constitutional issues raised.
This was an appeal against the decision of a magistrate to dismiss an application challenging the jurisdiction of that court to determine matters covered under the Wildlife Conservation Act. The respondent who was attacked by a baboon, commenced proceedings, claiming damages for pain and suffering and loss of amenities.
The High Court observed that s 25 of the act limits the claims to be made by virtue of the list contained in the third schedule. The court held that an attack by a baboon did not fall under section 25 of the Act, when read with the schedule. The court further pointed out that section 25 did not remove the jurisdiction of other courts, but merely introduced an easy way for poor farmers to claim compensation for the destruction of their crops and livestock. The court held that the magistrate was empowered to hear the matter. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.
The substance of this appeal was a judicial review against the decision by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to grant an EIA license. The appellants alleged that the license was issued without observance of the law.
The 2nd respondent raised preliminary objections and argued that the appeal was statute barred, the appeal was a subject matter of another suit and therefore sub judice and constituted an abuse of court process.
The appellants argued that the appeal was not statute barred since the time limitation, being 60 days only starts to run when the decision is handed down. The court interpreted Rule 7 of the National Environmental Tribunal Procedure, Rules 2003 and found that its provisions only allowed an extension of time to file proceedings where the time limit is not set in the Environmental Management and Coordination Act. The court noted that this appeal was not in the ambit of Rule 7 since s 129(1) of the Act set the time limit to 60 days after occurrence of the Act, which in this case was 60 days after the EIA license was issued. The court held that the appellants were not in compliance of the time limitation and declared the appeal to be incompetent.
The court found that as a result of the appeal being incompetent, there was no need to consider whether the matter was sub judice.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
In this case the appellant challenged the first respondent’s decision to grant the second and third respondents an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license for the construction of a church and related facilities. The second and third respondents raised an objection to the tribunal’s right to hear the matter on the ground that the appeal had been filed outside the timelines set out in the Environmental Management and Coordination Act 1999 (EMCA) as well as the National Environmental Tribunal Procedure Rules, 2003
The main issue for the tribunal’s consideration was whether it had jurisdiction to entertain an appeal which had been filed out of time. The tribunal relied on the rule established in Owners of the Motor Vessel “Lilian S” vs. Caltex Oil (Kenya) Limited that jurisdiction must be acquired before judgment is given. It also relied on s129(1) of the EMCA and held that the act was clear that an appeal ought to have been filed within 60 days but the evidence revealed that the appellants had filed their appeal after 78 days.
Accordingly, the tribunal found that it lacked jurisdiction to determine the matter, as the appeal was filed out of time and the appeal was dismissed.
In this case the tribunal considered an appeal against the approval and issuance of a license for the construction of a social hall, on the basis that it was issued without proper public consultation. The appellants sought revocation of the license and demolition of structures already built. The respondents denied the appellants allegations, arguing that all relevant laws and requirements were complied with and prayed that the appeal be dismissed. The first respondent testified that it issued a stop order against the construction for failing to comply with the requisite procedures and that it was only thereafter that the second respondent applied for the license.
The tribunal considered whether the requirement for public participation had been complied with before issuance of the EIA license
The tribunal held that public participation was a constitutional right under Article 10(2)(a) and found that the second respondent acted illegally and contrary to the principle of public participation. In conclusion, the tribunal found that the land was public land and that any developments should have been approved by the National Land Commission (NLC). It found that the NLC letter received by the respondents did not express approval of the project.
Accordingly, the appeal was upheld, the license revoked, and an environmental restoration order issued, with costs to the appellants.
The tribunal considered an appeal against the approval and issuance of a license for the construction of human waste sewage ponds in a residential area. The appellants argued the following: that they, had not been consulted; that the project would cause significant environmental damage; that the project lacked adequate mitigation measures; and that the respondents did not follow the relevant statutory provisions. The appellants sought cancellation of the license; an order to stop construction of the project; restitution, compensation as well as a guarantee of non- repetition; and environmental restoration. The respondents insisted that they had satisfied the relevant provisions and urged the tribunal to dismiss the appeal with costs.
The main issue for the tribunal’s consideration was whether there was effective public participation. It found that the respondents fell short of the requirement to issue two public notices. The tribunal also found that the respondents failed to demonstrate that they held three public meetings and that they made radio-announcements. It concluded therefor that public participation was not carried out effectively.
The tribunal went on to consider whether the project adhered to the Environment Management and Coordination (Water Quality) Regulations 2006; the Environment Management and Coordination (Wetlands, River Banks, Lake Shores and Sea Shore Management) Regulations 2009; and the Environmental Management and Co-Ordination (Air Quality) Regulations 2014. It found that the respondents failed to adhere to any of these. Accordingly, the tribunal upheld the appeal.
This Supreme Court case revolved around a compromise agreement between the fourth respondent and the appellant. The fourth respondent, a registered mining company, was going bankrupt and its management was entrusted to the liquidator. The liquidator then granted the appellant the right to treat stockpiles of ore at the mine to raise money to pay the creditors. The appellant then attempted to have all mining activities registered under its name. In doing so, the appellant misrepresented the facts to the third respondents without involving the fourth respondent stating that it paid the creditors their dues and as such, it was entitled to have mining activities registered under its name. However, the fourth respondent succeeded in establishing that the appellant was lying. This led the third respondent to cancel the appellant’s falsely obtained mineral rights. The High Court agreed with the respondents that the appellant's mineral rights over the plot in dispute were justifiably cancelled. The appellant felt aggrieved by the court’s judgement and appealed to the Supreme Court.
The issue for determination was whether the appellant was allowed to register mining rights under its name and whether the third respondent erred in cancelling its rights.
The Supreme Court held that agreements cannot be valid if consent was obtained through misrepresentation. Consequently, it found that the appellant was unjustified and supported the third respondent’s decision to cancel the falsely obtained rights.