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 High Court case involved an accused that was charged with contravening section 6(1) (a) (i) and section 33 (2)(i) read with (ii) of the Precious Stones Order of 1970 (“order”). The charges were that the accused was in possession of three rough and uncut diamonds without being duly licenced to deal in rough and uncut diamonds. The accused pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. However, the High Court was tasked to review the sentence on the ground that the accused was wrongfully charged. The record showed that the accused was merely found possessing the diamond unlawfully and not selling the diamond.
Thus, the issue for review was whether the accused was correctly charged under section 6(1)(a)(i) and section 33(2)(i) read with (ii) of the order.
The High Court accepted that the accused was wrongfully charged under section 6(1)(a)(i) and section 33 (2)(i) read with (ii) of the order, after reviewing the submissions. The court held that the offence he committed was limited to possession of the diamond unlawfully. To the alternative, the court stated that the accused ought to have been charged under section 6(1)(c) of the order which deals with unlawful possession of the diamond. Finally, the court allowed the amendment of the charge and confirmed the three months’ sentence stating that the punishment was proportionate to either of the offences.
This was an appeal to the High Court involving an appellant who was co-charged for contravening Section 6(1)(a)(i) read with (4) of Precious Stones Order of 1970 (“order”) as well as theft. In the case, the appellant allegedly bought diamonds with money that he had stolen from the bank account of his employer. The Magistrate Court acquitted the appellant and the co-accused of the charge of contravening the order. However, the appellant was convicted and sentenced for theft. The appellant’s defence was that he withdrew the money for office use, but that it was then stolen from his wardrobe by an unknown person.
On appeal, the first issue on trial was whether the magistrate erred in finding that the explanation given by the appellant was far from being reasonably accurate. The second was whether there was enough evidence to establish the appellant’s guilt.
The High Court held that the prosecution showed that the appellant withdrew the amount of money alleged to have been stolen from the bank. It found that the conviction by the lower court was well based on (1) the remainder of the money that was unearthed from the appellant’s house; (2) the uncut diamond that was recovered from the appellant; (3) further evidence. The Magistrate Court’s decision was therefore upheld and the appeal dismissed.
This High Court case concerned an appellant that had been convicted for contravening section 87(1) of the Land Act of 1979. The charge was that the accused (now appellant) did unlawfully and intentionally occupy land without proper authority. The appellant held the land and had agricultural license. When the land was declared urban land, the appellant continued to farm it, hence the accusation.
The main issue to be determined on appeal was whether the appellant was occupying the land in contravention of criminal code after the land was declared urban land.
The High Court held that the appellant did not contravene any
criminal code since the commissioner for land did not take steps required in law to nullify the pre-existing licenses. In that view, since the license held by the appellant was still intact even after declaring the land urban, the appellant was lawfully occupying the land.
The appeal was, therefore, upheld.
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to recognise the respondent as the rightful heir to real property. The matter had commenced in the local court, the contention between the parties being, who the rightful heir to the property was.
The issue for the court’s determination was whether it could entertain the appeal. It relied on s 17 of the Court of Appeal Act 1978 and the decision in Mahabanka Mohale v ’Makholu Leuta Mahao C of A (CIV) No. 22 of 2004. The court observed that the appellant filed a notice of motion for leave to appeal almost fourteen months after the High Court judgement had been passed and found that the appeal was out of time.
The Court stated further that although it had discretion to allow a breach of rules in a fitting case, the appellant had failed to file an application for condonation with supporting affidavits to enable the court to make a determination on whether to exercise its discretion.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appellant’s application for leave to appeal and struck the appeal off the roll.
This matter dealt with an appeal for a decision taken by the Magistrate’s Court to set aside the Local Court’s decision to absolve from the matter about the ownership of a certain piece of arable land.
It was the appellant’s case that while he was out of the country the chieftainship had deprived him of the land and reallocated it to the respondent who since used it. The respondent argued that the chief had rightly allocated the land to him and that the appellant had never been an occupant of said land. The appellant contended that a former directive issued by the court to make a determination of the ownership of the land when a dispute about the ownership arose before, had not been fulfilled and therefore the land would belong to him by default, as he had inherited it.
The High Court found that the issue was never resolved because the chieftainess could not confront the appellant with either of the two tenants whom he had given permission to stay on the land or the witness to the inheritance. Therefore, the appropriateness of the reallocation would have to be determined by senior chiefs before it could be brought to a competent court of law which was the Central Court and not the Local Court. The courts of law had, therefore, no jurisdiction on the matter before it had first been exhausted by the chieftainship in accordance with the Land Act of 1973 and the appeal was thus dismissed.
The appeal at hand flows from an initial application by the respondent for an interdict restraining the second appellant, from directing storm water on to the property of the respondent who cited that the construction of a water drainage system by the second appellant would threaten his properties as they stood lower than the water drainage scheme. He alluded that he foresaw damage to his buildings if the storm water were to come over his properties. A temporary interdict had been granted.
The court in this appeal were tasked with deciding whether the previous court had the jurisdiction to hear the matter and that the interdict be set aside as the second appellant was discharging their statutory obligation as per the Roads Act.
The court found that the Magistrate’s Court’s jurisdiction was confined to claims where the value of the subject matter in dispute did not exceed R2000.00. The court held that in order to give life to the interdict, the second appellant would have to design or construct a new drainage system which would in the courts opinion exceed R2000.00 and therefore the magistrate’s court had no jurisdiction.
Further, the respondent’s averment that a drainage system was necessary for safely leading storm water to its nearest natural drainage point was not opposed by the applicant who merely spoke of his property. The court held that such works were a necessity and the respondents ought to have been allowed to work.
The order was set aside.
This was an appeal against the order of the High Court that required the appellant to pay M52 900.00 to the respondent. This money was received by the appellant from the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority as compensation for the expropriation of land allotted to the respondent by his widowed mother.
The appellant and respondent, a nephew and uncle, occupied two adjacent properties. These properties were inherited by the appellant’s father and the respondent from their widowed mother in 1964. The court considered firstly, whether the respondent’s mother had a right at law to allocate the land to the appellant’s father and the respondent. Secondly, the court considered whether payment of the compensation ought to have been allocated to the parties in accordance with the portions of land that they occupied.
The court found that there was nothing in law, whether customary law or common law, prohibiting the widow (the respondent’s mother) from making the allotment that she did as it was designed to ensure that, during her lifetime, her sons exercised her rights in and over the fields. The court also found that although there was evidence to show that both properties were registered under the appellant’s father’s name, it was clear that the respondent was occupier and user of the disputed field since 1964, and was therefore entitled to receive compensation.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to dismiss an application for review of an application for the setting aside of a decision made by the second respondent, the Member of the Executive Committee of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga (the MEC), and upheld on appeal by the first respondent, the Director General, Environmental Management, Mpumalanga, (the DG). The decision in question was to permit the construction of a filling station in White River. The appellant contended that the permission was given contrary to the provisions of the law.
The court observed that all environmental precautions had been taken into account by the scoping report. It found that the land had been rezoned by the local authority from special area to a business area, based on need and desirability. The court held that that the key factors’ in deciding to grant the application in the circumstance were: firstly, that the property had been rezoned from “special” to “business”; secondly, that no potential threatened plant and animal species were recorded during the site investigation; and, that all identified and perceived impacts were satisfactorily dealt with in the scoping report and the recommendations proposed were sufficient to minimize any negative impacts. Since all this were observed. The appellant case was dismissed with cost.
This was an appeal against a decision of the High Court to hold the appellants in contempt of an order of the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, issued to the mining companies concerned under s 19(3) of the National Water Act 36 of 1998.
The appellants contended the directives were incapable of implementation because they were so vague. Consequently, the respondent obtained orders from court a quo, compelling the appellant to provide an amount of money as contribution to execute the ministerial order. Following the order, the appellant failed to pay the money. As a result, the appellants applied to have the appellants for contempt.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether an order of the court ordering money to be paid could raise a question of contempt. In overruling the decision of court below, the supreme court stated that it was only where performance of an act was ordered – ad factum praestandum – that conviction for contempt of court was permitted as a means of enforcing performance. It held that contempt proceedings were therefore inappropriate in the circumstances. In conclusion, the court stated that an order that a person was in contempt of court, which carries with it criminal sanctions, should be made only where the court order allegedly flouted was clear and capable of enforcement. Accordingly, the appeal was upheld.
This was an application for an injunction order by the plaintiffs to restrain the defendants from harvesting trees without consulting and involving the community. The court had to decide on the following: whether a community that was a beneficiary of a forest had capacity to commence proceedings against the illegal and irregular harvesting of timber and fuel wood materials from the forest; whether public participation was mandatory in the management of forests; and whether the Director of Kenya Forest Service (KFS), the first defendant, could be sued in their capacity as a director.
The court held that there were no provisions in law which barred any suit against the first defendant in that capacity. The court observed that the community had an interest in the preservation and sustainable use of the forest. As such, public participation was an important component of environmental management as enshrined in the constitution. However, the court pointed out that there was no public participation that was demonstrated by the respondents. On the lack of a management plan by the KFS, the court held that it was difficult to know when a tree was planted or harvested, thus creating difficulty to prove which trees were to be cut. The court held that the balance of convenience weighed in favour of the applicants because environmental interests far-outweighed private interests.
Accordingly, the court ordered the respondents to stop harvesting trees, pending the hearing of the suit.
The matter dealt with the issue of jurisdiction arising out of a dispute regarding the development of residential flats by the ex parte applicant.
The court considered whether the National Environment Tribunal had jurisdiction to hear and determine Tribunal Appeal No. 74 of 2011. Under section 129(1) of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, a person who did not participate in the Environmental Impact Assessment study process for the development, in the process of approval or complaint cannot be said to have been an aggrieved by the process which led to the issuance of the licence as no decision could be said to have been made against him. If the tribunal purports to entertain such an appeal under the aforesaid section, the tribunal would be acting ultra vires its authority, hence its decision would be liable to be quashed.
In this case, it was clear that the appeal in issue did not fall within section 129(1) since the second respondent was not a participant in the licensing process. It followed that the limitation period provided under section 129(1) did not apply to the second respondent since, in the court’s view, that limitation only applied to a person appealing pursuant to section 129(1).
There was no evidence that the second respondent was barred from appealing by any other provision in the act or regulations. Accordingly, the court found that the second respondent was entitled under section 129(2) to appeal against the decision of the authority.
The Notice of Motion was dismissed.
The court considered an application by which the applicants sought an order declaring that their right to life had been contravened by forcible eviction and by settlement of other persons on their land. The applicants were members of the Ogiek community who had been living in East Mau Forest for decades, as food gatherers and hunters. Upon the introduction of colonial rule, the land was declared a forest, however, no land was set aside for the applicants.
The court set out the issues as follows: whether the members of the community had recognizable rights arising from their occupation of the forest; whether in the circumstances of the case, their rights had been infringed by their eviction and allocation of other persons; and whether the settlement was ultra vires.
The court found that the right to a livelihood did not have a definition and could be included in the right to life. Thus, their livelihood was directly dependent on forest resources to sustain their way of life. Further, the court held that the applicants were a minority group who had lost their access to land and their right to live in the forests which was key to their livelihood, thus their rights had been infringed.Finally, the court found that there were significant irregularities made during the allocation of land, thus the settlement scheme was ultra vires and the applicants were therefore entitled to the relief sought.
Accordingly, the application was upheld.
The matter dealt with an application seeking an order that the defendant be temporarily restrained from erecting, constructing and or use of the public toilet on the beach front near the plaintiff’s resort.
The court considered whether the plaintiff established a prima facie case with a probability of success to warrant the grant of a temporary injunction. The principle of public participation informs the requirement of submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment Report which gives individuals such as the applicant a voice in issues that may bear directly on their health and welfare and entitlement to a clean environment. In the absence of the report for the construction of the toilets approved by the National Environment Management Authority, the court held that the plaintiff established a prima facie case with chances of success.
The court considered whether the construction of the public toilet next to the resort would cause adverse environmental effect thus devaluing the plaintiff's otherwise prime property. The court has the constitutional duty, at Article 70 (2) of the Constitution to prevent, stop or discontinue any act or omissions that is harmful to the environment. Accordingly, the court held that unless the order of injunction was granted as prayed, the plaintiff, and the users of the beach and the ocean were likely to suffer irreparable damage if the toilets were used before proper mechanisms were put in place to mitigate the environmental pollution that may have occurred.
The application was granted.
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 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.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the High Court to set aside a magistrate’s grant of an interdict to the appellant. The High Court held that the magistrate had no jurisdiction to grant the interdict in exercise of its powers under s 30(1) of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 32 of 1944 because s 29(1)(g) sets a monetary limit on the value of the matter in dispute.
The court considered whether the jurisdiction of the magistrate was excluded due to the limit on the monetary value of the matter in dispute in accordance with the act.
The court established that the matter before the magistrate court related not to the value of the business but to the unlawful activities that the appellant claimed amounted to nuisance. The court found that the respondents had not complied with the requirements for the use of their land including the submission of an environmental and health assessment report and that their activities affected the appellant adversely. The court held that the respondent had not proved that the cost of abating the nuisance was beyond the jurisdiction of the magistrate.
The court concluded that in the circumstances, the magistrate had the jurisdiction to grant an interdict. In conclusion, the court set aside the order of the High Court and replaced it with an order that the appeal to that court be dismissed with costs.
Accordingly, the court upheld the appeal with costs and ordered that the decision of the magistrate be reinstated.
The court considered an appeal against a judgment of the Gauteng Local Division where the appellants refusal to supply information to the respondent about their industrial activities with possible environmental impacts, was declared invalid and set aside.
Following two requests by the respondent, the appellant refused to give them any information based on a failure to meet the threshold requirements of s 50(1)(a), read with s 53 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000. Further, that their reliance on s 24 of the Constitution was too broad and in conflict with the principle of subsidiarity. I.e. where legislation giving effect to constitutional rights exists, the provisions of the legislation is where the rights should be located.
The court found that the word ‘required’ in s 50(1)(a) of PAIA should be construed as ‘reasonably required’ in the prevailing circumstances for the exercise or protection of the rights by the requestor. Thus, insofar as the environment is concerned, collaborative governance was a virtue.
The court took into consideration the nature of the appellant’s operations and its consequences. The appellant had a reputation for being a major polluter in the areas in which it conducted operations.
The court found that the information was required to make a decision on future actions and could find no error in the court’s reasoning that led it to an order compelling the appellant to provide the requested information and that there is no room for secrecy.
The court considered an appeal against a judgment dismissing the appellant’s exception.
The appellant was a property development company and sought to develop property in low-lying areas adjacent to the Disa river. In order to develop these properties the appellant began to lift these properties to four meters above sea level by dumping waste matter and filling in on the properties. This resulted in the 2nd respondent issuing directives to the appellant in terms of section 31A of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1989 (“ECA”), which required the appellant, at its own expense, to engage a freshwater ecologist and other environmental impacts of their actions.
The appellant complied with the directive but alleged that the directive had prevented it from undertaking any further development on the properties that were below the 1:100-year flood line, as well as the properties that were within the wetland boundary as surveyed by the ecologist.
The court below held that section 34(1) of the ECA provided a right to claim for compensation where loss suffered by a claimant arose from limitations placed on the purposes for which land may be used.
This court found that when the directives were issued, the constitutional and statutory obligations to prevent harm to the environment were met. Thus, section 34 of the ECA could not have been directed at providing compensation for actions taken under section 31A as those provisions regulate harmful activities against the environment.
The court considered an application for review to set aside the decision of the respondent regarding authorisation to develop a filling station on property situated within a commercial area.
The court considered whether the department had acted unfairly by failing to call for further information from the applicant, and subsequently denying the applicant authorisation to develop the filling station. Found, the department was not obliged to request the applicant to amend their report, and as such the applicant was entitled to renew their report at any stage, and thus did not act unfairly.
In order to determine whether the respondent had acted unlawfully and irregularly, environmental legislation and the Constitution, which contain socio-economic considerations, had to be considered.
The court considered whether the department’s policy of protecting the environment met with the guidelines applicable to developing filling stations was reasonable, and reasonably applied. Policy is applicable where (i) it will not preclude the exercise of discretion; (ii) it is compatible with the enabling legislation; and (iii) it is disclosed to the affected person before a decision is reached. The court found that the department met all of the requirements and was lawfully entitled, and duty bound to consider the guidelines.
The court considered whether the respondent’s argument regarding the distance was reasonable. The court found that the department had consulted with stakeholders who agreed with the distance and reduced the distance in the industry’s favour. Accordingly, the court held that the department acted bona fide and reasonably.
This case considered an application for an exception to the plaintiffs’ particulars of claim. The plaintiff’s claim was based on the alleged degradation of the environment caused by mining activities conducted over a number of years.
The court considered whether the provisions of s28 of the National Environmental Management Principles (NEMA) were retrospective.
The court applied the common law rebuttable presumption against retrospectivity. In the circumstances, the court considered the nature of the duty; enforcement of the duty; what the legislature intended; when the transactions were completed and other alleged indications of retrospectivity. The court found that the presumption against retrospectivity was not disturbed, and was not applicable in this instance because the legislature could not have intended such.
The court considered whether there was proper or substantial compliance with s 28(12) of NEMA. As with the first claim, the court applied the principle of retrospectivity. Accordingly, the court held that the exception to the first alternative claim that it lacks averments necessary to sustain a cause of action must also be upheld because it avers retrospectivity.
In terms of the second alternative claim, the court held that the exception should be dismissed.
Regarding the third and fourth alternative claims, which were based on regulations that no longer had the force of law, the court found them to lack averments necessary to sustain a cause of action. Accordingly, the court upheld the third and fourth exceptions which related to these claims.