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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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.
The matter dealt with an alleged breach of contract that required the plaintiff to supply large amounts of water to the defendantís wine farm. The contract contained two main clauses namely, that the defendant would reimburse the plaintiff a maximum of N$300000 for obtaining tenders and would design and construct the bulk water supply scheme in the absence of an alternative agreement.
The plaintiff contended that the agreement was never entered into despite the work being carried out and as a result, they were entitled to reimbursement because the defendant breached the two main clauses of the contract. In response, the defendant alleged that the plaintiff was vicariously guilty of breach of contract as a result of which the defendant says it terminated contract.
The main question before the court was whether the plaintiff was vicariously guilty of breach of contract which resulted in the defendantís termination of the contract and in the alternative. The court also considered whether the respondent would be required to pay for the work done as per the agreement.
The court found that no such breach existed and that had there been a breach, the defendant, would have been required to communicate termination of the contract which it failed to do. The court concluded that the reliance on an alleged oral agreement had not been proved by facts ëíin the clearest and most satisfactory manneríí. The court found in favour of the applicant.