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 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 Fees and Charges Act (the act) calculated the plaintiff’s rent for five mining leases. The plaintiff challenged the Minister of Finance’s authority to amend the legislation.
Issue one: whether the Administrator of Stool Lands had any role to play in fixing annual ground rents. The court held that the Administrator did not fix the rates, but wrote to demand payment.
Issue two: whether the administrator was part of a review team that recommended the adjustments, amounting to prescribing annual ground rent. The administrator provided an advisory opinion with no legal force.
Issue three: whether the grant of power to the Minister of Finance was unconstitutional. A schedule forms part of an act. Subordinate legislation cannot amend an act; however, this rule is not invariable regarding schedules. Acts may empower another to revise the contents of a schedule, and this power must be expressly conferred by Parliament. It was found that it was.
Issue four: whether or not the Fees and Charges Instruments contravened the act and the Constitution. The Minister of Finance was empowered to amend the schedule in fixing fees and charges; however the inclusion of the administrator in the amended list was inconsistent with the Constitution, and void to the extent of this inclusion
Issue five: whether the power conferred on the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources was transferred to the Minister of Finance. The court held that no such transfer of power occurred.
Issue six: whether the failure by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources to exercise the power conferred on him in the act violated the Constitution. The Minister of Mines was empowered in terms of the act; however the parties incorrectly cited the Minister of Lands.
The Minister of Mines was ordered to fix the fees and charges under the act.
The applicants sought to review and set aside the decision of the first respondent to cancel a lease agreement concluded by the 4th applicant after the 4th applicant disregarded environmental standards on wastewater discharge per the agreement.
The court determined whether the first to third applicants’ irregular appointment as liquidators deprived them of locus standi (capacity) to seek review. It was held that these applicants had the required locus standi.
The court also determined whether the application was brought in reasonable time given the delay in filing the application after becoming aware of the cancellation of the lease. It was noted that there is no prescribed time for the institution of review proceedings. However, the court found that the applicants failed to explain the delay and held it to be unreasonable.
The court held that the relationship between the 4th applicant and first respondent was a contractual relationship. The court considered whether the Municipality validly cancelled the lease agreement before the liquidators’ election to continue with the lease agreement. The court considered clause 16.1 of the agreement and observed that the agreement required no formalities for cancellation. It applied the test of whether a reasonable person would conclude that the proper performance will not be forthcoming and held that the Municipality had a right to cancel the lease.
It was also held that the review relief sought was unsustainable since the decision to cancel the agreement did not constitute reviewable administrative action despite being made by a person who would ordinarily perform administrative functions.
The applicants abandoned their claim for declaratory order to exercise an improvement lien and moved for amendment of the relief in prayer 3. However, the amendment was not requested or granted. Hence the two prayers were dismissed.
Accordingly, the matter was dismissed with costs.