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
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.
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 court considered an action, where it was called upon to determine the seaward boundary of the Littoral States within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The purpose was to calculate the revenue accruing to the Federation account from the natural resources derived.
The Federal State contended that the southern seaward boundary of each of the defendants’ states would be the low-water mark of the land surface akin to such State, alternatively, the seaward limit of inland waters within the State. The contrary argument was that the territory of each State was beyond the low-water mark and extended into the territorial water.
The court found that the southern boundaries of the littoral States are the sea. Thus, as a result, it makes them riparian owners. In terms of common law, as riparian owners the extent of their territory would be the low-water mark, alternatively the seaward limit of their internal waters.
The court found that none of the Territorial Waters Act, Sea Fisheries Act and Exclusive Economic Zone Act had extended the territory beyond southern boundary limit. Therefore, and due to the sea shore and foreshore belonging to the crown, the court held that the low-water mark forms the boundary of the land territory between the littoral States.
Plaintiff’s claim was successful.
The court considered an appeal against the decision of the lower court, seeking among other things, a declaratory order, that a concession agreement signed, and registered in the Register of Deeds, Lands Registry entered by the second respondent on behalf of the native lands was irregular, and liable to be set aside.
At the core of the challenge was a lease agreement entered by the Ife District Native Authority over a forest, which was communal property. The lease was granted to a timber trading company for a 25-year term. The court had to decide several issues, including: (1) whether the appellants had locus standi (2) whether the Oni if Ife had the capacity to act as both grantor and grantee (3) and whether the deed of concession was made in pursuance of the power vested in the first defendant.
In considering the appellants locus standi in the matter, the court considered the use of the land which included farming, fishing and hunting. The court concluded that the appellants thus had substantial interest in the matter. The court found in favour of the appellants on the question of whether the Oni of Ife executed the deed in a dual capacity as he was both a grantor and a major shareholder of the grantee company. Through being the grantor and the beneficiary of the rights, the Oni of Ife acted in a dual capacity and his interests in the agreement conflicted with his fiduciary duty. The court held that the Oni of Ife and the council, ought to have exercised their rights in a manner consistent and not detrimental to the rights of the appellants.
This was an appeal to the High Court against the decision of a magistrate to dismiss the appellant’s claim which concerned a dispute over a customary piece of land. While the appellant stated that the part of the land in dispute was his, the respondent maintained otherwise.
The issue for determination was whether the land belonged to the respondent or the appellant. The court held that in civil cases, the evidence was on a balance of probability. As such, the respondent’s evidence that he was the one given the land by the chief carried more weight and was therefore convincing. The court further held that customary lands were owned communally, which meant that the chief did not own the land as his belonging. Therefore, the court stated that the chief did not have the power to deprive one person of land and give it to another. In conclusion, the court upheld the decision of the court below and accordingly dismissed the appeal.
This was a claim for negligence and damages caused to the plaintiffs’ houses by road construction works that were carried out by the first defendant with the authority of the second defendant. The second defendant argued that the action was statute barred and that it could not be held liable for the first defendant’s negligence since they were independent contractors.
The court noted that the plaintiffs accepted that the action against the second defendant was statute barred but argued that the second defendant waived its right to a remedy under the act. The court held that the joinder of the second defendant to the proceedings was improper. It was further held that the waiver which was not pleaded lacked merit.
Secondly, the court determined whether the first defendant was negligent. The court noted that an action of negligence required the plaintiffs to prove that there was a duty of care owed to them, a breach of the duty and damages suffered thereof. The court held that the first defendant owed the plaintiffs a duty of care not to subject their houses to a risk of damage. However, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to prove a breach of the duty, since there was no evidence that the construction was done without risk assessment and the plaintiffs had been compensated for the damages.
The issue of the second defendant’s liability was found to be redundant, since the action was already dismissed on the basis of the first and second issues.
This was a mediation report regarding an action commenced by the plaintiffs against the installation of a water pump and other construction works on what was believed to be customary land. The plaintiffs sought to restrain the defendant from interfering with their customary rights on the land. They contended that the water pump installation plan violated their right to the use and enjoyment of their customary land. The matter was set for mediation.
The issue for resolution was whether the project interfered with the customary land held by the plaintiffs.
An agreement was reached by the parties to the effect that the project was located in an intersection of the road reserve which was public land pursuant to the Waterworks Act and that the defendants had obtained the requisite authority to install the water pump and related works. The proposed construction of the water pump was therefore not in violation of any customary rights for as long as it was restricted within the road reserve. Accordingly, the matter was resolved.
This was an appeal against a decision of a magistrate to dismiss the appellant’s claim over a piece of customary land which he claimed was unlawfully in the possession of the second respondent, his son. The appellant had left the village for a long time and upon returning found that the first respondent had constructed a home on his land. The appellant instructed the first respondent to vacate land but he refused and proceeded to sell the land to the second respondent. The appellant told the court below that he inherited the piece of land from his father. The lower court found that the appellant had failed to adduce enough evidence to show that the land belonged to him.
The court had to determine the following: which party had the right of occupation of the land; whether the land was lawfully transferred to the second respondent and whether a permanent injunction could be granted restraining the appellant or the respondents from interfering with the land in question.
The court held that although the land had been given to the first respondent customarily, chiefs must be guided by the law specifically, the Constitution and it was against the law to deprive any person the right to use and occupy customary land without any justification at law. It held that indefinite individual usage and occupation of customary land was therefore permissible under the laws of Malawi and the subsequent transfer was legal. Accordingly, the court upheld the lower court ruling.
This was an appeal against the validity of an order to the Land Valuation Board to assess the compensation payable in respect of buildings and farms belonging to inhabitants of an old village.
The facts of this case were that the appellant, a mining company, requested the respondents and other inhabitants of a village, which adjoined its mining area, to vacate the village and paid them compensation for their buildings, which were later demolished. Section 71 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 1986, provided for compensation for disturbances to owners and occupiers of lands affected by mineral operations. The appellant argued that this compensation was limited to areas within the mineral operations and that these areas were not land designated within its mining lease.
The Supreme Court considered the lawfulness of the board’s decision to award further compensation under s71 of the act. It found that since the mining operations of the appellant affected the owners or occupiers of land they were entitled to statutory compensation. The court stated that whereas compensation for the buildings of the respondents was settled by agreement with the appellants, as permitted under s71(3) of the act, compensation for the disturbance of their farming activities at the old village was mandatory under the act.
The court, however, stated that the lower courts came to the right conclusion but their reasons were not sound in law. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed but the reasons were substituted for the Supreme Court’s decision.
In this Court of Appeal case, the court determined who breached the contract of oil supply between the appellant and the respondent. The contract ran into a deadlock after three deliveries of the product when the appellants refused to accept one of the respondents’ deliveries upon presentation. The reason given for the resultant stalemate was that the product was not of the specification ordered.
The court below had penalised the appellant for unnecessarily breaching a contract. The appellant felt aggrieved and appealed to seek an overturn of the trial court’s judgment entered in favour of the respondents.
The Court of Appeal thus determined if there was a variation in the contract, when did that occur and also what did the variation entail.
In response, the Court of Appeal held that there was nothing on record to persuade the court that the respondent product was not of the specification ordered. The court thus maintained the decision of the court below. However, the Court of Appeal noted that the cost granted in the court below was exorbitant. In the end, the court dismissed the appellant case, but the costs awarded in the court below was accordingly varied.
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.
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
Environment – environmental impact assessment – requirement for – such requirement additional to considerations for issue of mining permit
This Supreme Court case concerned an appeal against the ruling of the High Court that found the appellant guilty primarily on counts of: (1) theft of unpolished diamonds in contravention of section 74 of Act 13 of 1999; alternatively, possession of unpolished diamonds in contravention of section 30(11) of Act 13 of 1999; (2) robbery; (3) malicious damage to property; and 4) escaping before being locked up in contravention of section 51(1) of Act 51 of 1977.
The appellant was primarily charged in the High Court for stealing unpolished diamonds and fleeing arrest. He was convicted on all the counts and sentenced to both a jail term and payment of fine
The appellant felt aggrieved and appealed to the Supreme Court mainly on the ground that the prosecution side failed to establish that the mining company was the lawful owner of the alleged stolen diamond.
The court held that the evidence obtained from the surveillance cameras clearly showed that the unpolished diamond that the appellant was trying to steal was discovered and recovered from him. The court held that he was caught right at the exit of the mining site. So generally, the mining company was the one licensed to exploit and trade the diamond in that area the court a quo was justified to take a judicial notice that the diamonds belonged to the complainant.
The court therefore refrained from disturbing both the conviction and the sentence of the High Court, so the appeal was dismissed.
In this Supreme Court case, the first respondent applied for the permit to drill boreholes in the Khan River for uranium mining activities. Subsequently, the second respondent granted the rights to use the boreholes and the water to the first respondent allegedly in the exercise of its powers provided under the Water Act of 1954. The appellant’s case against the respondents was that the wildlife on its farm depended on the naturally occurring underground water to support natural habitats. Overusing the water from the rare sources in the area would, therefore, disturb the ecosystem.
At the High Court level, the issue was to determine whether under the act the second respondent had the powers to grant such rights. The High Court held that the powers to grant such rights were limited to subterranean waters. Moreover, the court held that since under the act sections 27, 28 and 30, the president proclaims the underground waters. The president had never declared the areas allocated to the first respondent as such the permits were a nullity. As a result, there was nothing to be determined by the court in favour of the appellant.
On appeal, the Supreme Court agreed that the permit issued was a nullity. However, it held that the High Court ought to have decided the case in favour of the appellant since, in law, illegal acts can create reviewable actions. Finally, the Supreme Court upheld the appellant’s claim.
This was a Supreme Court case that revolved around an agreement between the parties which was suddenly terminated. The agreement demanded that the respondent to import oil resources on behalf of the Government of Namibia. The arrangement proved to be failure as the cost of importing petroleum was high against the market price. Consequently, the first appellant, acting in ministerial capacity decided to end the agreement. The first respondent felt aggrieved and filed a suit in the High Court, asking it to review the decision of the cabinet that terminated the said contract.
As such, the main issue, in this case, was whether the cabinet of the government of the Republic of Namibia acted lawfully when it revoked the mandate of the respondents to import petroleum products. The High Court in determining this issue held that the cabinet had no legally tenable reason(s) to end the contract in question.
However, on appeal, the Supreme Court held that under the Namibian Constitution in article 27(2), the executive power of the Republic of Namibia vests in the president and the cabinet. It further held that under the article, the cabinet has the role of supervising the activities of the government departments. Since the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents are government parastatals the cabinet justifiably exercised its regulatory powers in the best interest of the Namibian people.
The Supreme Court thus overturned the decision of the High Court and accordingly upheld the appeal.
This was an appeal from the High Court to the Supreme Court. The case concerned a ministerial notice stating that nuclear energy prospecting licenses regarding certain areas will not be provided. The appellant was allegedly an aspiring applicant. He thus felt aggrieved with the notice.
In the High Court, it was held that the appellant lacked legal capacity to challenge the notice as the notice did not create any triable issue. Aggrieved, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.
Thus, the main issue for determination was whether the respondent's notice exempting certain areas from being prospected for nuclear resources was unconstitutional. The appellant’s argument was that the denial of the prospecting license violated his constitutional right to work.
In response, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision, but it disagreed with the High Court that the respondent lacked the legal capacity. According to the Supreme Court, the appellant would have been successful if the minister had no statutory powers to issue the notice or if the process was procedural. However, the minister had such powers under section 122(1) of the Mineral (Prospecting and Mining) Act of 1992. Consequently, the Court held that it cannot order the minister to issue the license if the notice is still in existence. Also, the Supreme Court held that the constitutional provision on the right to work does not mean that people can conduct mining activities without being regulated given the environmental challenges.
Following this, the appellant's case was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an application for a mandamus by the applicant, as a result of the respondents having applied for the consolidation and rezoning of 2 plots of land. The respondents had their application conditionally approved upon submitting an engineer’s drawing for the erection of retaining walls as part of flood protection and to create 54 client accessible parking bays.
The court considered if there was a contravention of s 44(5) of the applicant’s town planning scheme in accordance with the Town Planning Ordinance No 18 of 1954 as amended. Without drawing plans being submitted to the applicant for approval, the respondents admitted that a temporary corrugated iron wall was erected on the riverbank which was next to the two properties. On their own admission, the respondents did not create the 54 accessible parking bays.
The court found that the respondents failed to adhere to the condition of their approved application, so they were ordered to remove the illegally constructed corrugated iron wall, to submit an engineer’s drawing for the erection of the retaining walls to be constructed on the properties, within three months of the order. They were also ordered to construct the retaining wall within six months from the date of the approval by the applicant of the engineering drawing, as well as to remove all building materials and rubble from one plot in order to create 54 accessible parking bays on one of the properties. Respondents were ordered to pay applicant’s costs.
The plaintiff in this case claimed restitution for a breach of contract. The court determined whether the defendant was in breach of contract for failing to install a working borehole in a geohydrological environment where the plaintiff's farm was located.
The defendant raised a counterclaim that the plaintiff had accepted that work was completed but failed to pay the balance of the agreed amount. The court applied the rule in Du Plessis v Ndjavera that the plaintiff is under no obligation to perform before defendant has completed his performance.
The court held that the defendant was at fault for failing to assess the soil formation in the area and ended up using the incorrect drilling method. The court observed that the defendant admitted to using the riskier direct flush air percussion instead of the mud rotary method to save on expenses and thus failed to complete performance.
Accordingly, the court held that the defendant was in breach of contract and the plaintiff was entitled to cancel the
agreement and claim restitution. The counterclaim was also dismissed with costs.