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 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.
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 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.
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.