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 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.
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.
In this case the appellants appealed against the first respondent’s decision to issue an environmental impact assessment (EIA) license to the second respondent for the proposed development of offices, staff quarters, and a conference hall. The applicants sought the following: a stop order; cancellation of the license; and an environmental restauration order.
The first respondent filed a notice of preliminary objection contending that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to entertain the appeal, as the appeal was filed more than 60 days after the issuance of the license and, therefore, out of time.
The appellants argued that they filed the appeal within 60 days of the time they became aware that the license had been issued and urged the court to admit the appeal.
The tribunal considered whether the appeal was one under s129(1) or s129(2) EMCA. It observed that any appeal that sought to challenge matters surrounding the grant or refusal to grant a licence fell within the ambit of s 129(1) whereas s129(2) covered appeals against acts or omissions of the Director General or the committee of the authority or its agents on matters outside the issue of licensing.
The tribunal found that the appeal fell under s129(1) which imposed a strict time limit, incapable of extension. Thus, the tribunal held that the date when the appellants became aware of the decision to issue the license was immaterial in determining whether the appeal was competent or not. Accordingly, the preliminary objection was allowed, and the appeal dismissed.
The court considered an application for review of the Appellate Court’s decision to decline to grant certification to appeal. The applicant argued that the Appellate Court failed to appreciate that the matters, in respect of which the applicant sought a decision, were substantial points of law which were of general public importance and transcended the circumstances of the particular case.
The court held that an applicant seeking certification “must satisfy the Court that the issue to be canvassed on appeal is one the determination of which transcends the circumstances of the particular case” and if the applicant’s appeal is based on a point of law, he “must demonstrate that such point is a substantial one, the determination of which will have a significant bearing on the public interest.”
In the present case, the court found that the decisions of the lower courts were based on each of those court’s interpretation of the provisions of the private transportation and storage agreement between Triton Petroleum Company Limited (Triton) and the Respondent and the collateral financing agreement between Triton and the applicant. These were not issues of general public importance which transcended the circumstances of the particular case.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the application.
This was a petition brought by various parties challenging the implementation and design of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET Project). The court considered whether the implementation of the project violated the rights of the affected communities.
The court observed that the rights of citizens regarding information on environmental matters, public participation, and access to justice were indispensable to foster sustainable development. The court found that the various petitioners’ rights were violated or could potentially be violated by the project, including the rights to fishing and to a clean and healthy environment.
The court ordered the project designers to engage the community as a distinct group and to mitigate on how the project, would affect their rights to culture. Secondly, it ordered the respondents to design a measurable and actionable plan, in consultation with the affected community on how to protect the cultural identity during and after the construction of the project. Thirdly, it ordered the government to draw up a management plan to preserve the Lamu Island as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as directed through UNESCO declarations. Fourthly, it ordered the department responsible for issuing environmental impact assessments to ensure that the rights of the communities were implemented before reconsidering the licence. Accordingly, the petition was upheld.
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 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 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.
This was an appeal against the High Court’s decision that declared the land tax imposed under ss 76 to 80 of the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act as constitutional.
The court determined whether s 76 contravened the constitutional principal of separation of powers which gives the National Assembly power to provide for revenue and taxation.
The appellant contended that the law in question went against separation of powers by devolving legislative power to a minister.
The court held that s 76 did not conflict with the constitutional principles of separation powers as the power of the National Assembly had been exercised by the stipulation of a tax as authorised by the Constitution. The court found that the only role of the minister was to set a rate according to a procedure set out in the regulations. The court stated further that in any event, this rate was subject to the approval of the National Assembly and as such, no independent power was vested in the minister.
The court noted that the regulations that were challenged set out how the land was to be administered. The court held that the appellant’s claim lacked sufficient particularity required for pleadings in constitutional litigation.
Accordingly, the court held that the appellant had failed to establish how these regulations contravened constitutional provisions and dismissed the appeal. The court also dismissed the appellant’s prayer with no order as to costs.