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
This matter dealt with an appeal against a decision of the High Court dismissing the appellant’s claim for a declaration of rights over land and the setting aside of a directive made by the minister. The appellant had contended in the lower court that the act was only applicable to agricultural land and was not intended to relate to land within a proclaimed township.
The main issues for the court’s consideration were whether the land in question fell within the scope of the minister’s powers under the act and whether these powers were lawfully exercised.
The court established that the wording of the act was clear, and that the extent of the minister’s power did not cover non-agricultural land. The court concluded that the decision of the minister should have been set aside. The court stated further that the powers under s 31A of the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989 were not to be applied without the procedure set out in the act. Therefore, in the absence of compliance with these procedures, the minister’s decision was invalid. Accordingly, the court upheld the appeal with costs to the appellant.
Jafta JA in a dissenting judgment held that the procedure set out in the act dealt mainly with procedural fairness and was not a prerequisite for the exercise of the minister’s powers. He concluded that the procedural aspects if applied in this context would defeat the purpose of the powers under s 31A of the act, to protect the environment.
The applicants sought to interdict and restrain the respondent from continuing to refuse access to a parcel of land, based on the respondent refuting an existing and enforceable prospecting right which was held by the applicants.
The court considered whether a prospecting right becomes an enforceable limited real right upon registration in the Mining Titles Office and held, it was universally accepted that mineral rights were real rights. Thus, prospecting rights were limited real rights in respect of the mineral and the land to which such rights related.
The court held that a distinction is drawn between the date the right becomes effective and the date of registration. The right becomes effective from the date of approval and subsequently needs to be registered within 30 days of it becoming effective. Therefore, the prospecting right will become enforceable from the date it is effective. The court found that to interpret the Mineral and Petroleum Development Act to mean that a prospecting right becomes effective but remains unenforceable because it has not been registered, would be impractical.
The court found that the respondent’s refusal was primarily a point of protecting his right as a landowner and to the protecting against being arbitrarily deprived of one’s property. Irrespective of the fact that the applicants renewed their prospecting right, the right remained in force until such time as the renewal had been granted or refused. Thus, the applicants had a valid and existing prospecting right and were entitled to access the land to complete their operations.
The applicant, sought to review and set aside the 5th respondent’s decision on 3 grounds 1) it failed to adhere to the audi alteram partem principle, 2) the decision was unreasonable, and 3) there was a perception of bias.
The applicant was formed to manage the Long Beach development on behalf of individual members, which gave them the powers to make applications for environmental authorizations.
The audi alteram partem principle entitles affected parties to make representations. The applicant contended that it was denied this opportunity when the 5th respondent made its decision.
The court found that there is a distinction between reasons advanced in support of a decision and concerns that may relate to matters which are not properly addressed. Held, that an uncertainty suggests a lack of clarity to enable the decision maker to apply his mind. However, if an uncertainty is created, the decision maker should afford the applicant an opportunity to answer, and settle those concerns. The court found that the fifth respondent’s actions, in not allowing the applicant to respond, denied it of its right curtail uncertainties and failed to adhere to the audi alteram partem principle.
On the basis of the applicant’s additional grounds, it was found that the arguments for unreasonableness and bias were not sustainable.
The court set aside the 5th respondent’s decision and referred the matter back, to allow the applicant to respond to any uncertainties.
The court considered an application for review to set aside the decision of the respondent regarding authorisation to develop a filling station on property situated within a commercial area.
The court considered whether the department had acted unfairly by failing to call for further information from the applicant, and subsequently denying the applicant authorisation to develop the filling station. Found, the department was not obliged to request the applicant to amend their report, and as such the applicant was entitled to renew their report at any stage, and thus did not act unfairly.
In order to determine whether the respondent had acted unlawfully and irregularly, environmental legislation and the Constitution, which contain socio-economic considerations, had to be considered.
The court considered whether the department’s policy of protecting the environment met with the guidelines applicable to developing filling stations was reasonable, and reasonably applied. Policy is applicable where (i) it will not preclude the exercise of discretion; (ii) it is compatible with the enabling legislation; and (iii) it is disclosed to the affected person before a decision is reached. The court found that the department met all of the requirements and was lawfully entitled, and duty bound to consider the guidelines.
The court considered whether the respondent’s argument regarding the distance was reasonable. The court found that the department had consulted with stakeholders who agreed with the distance and reduced the distance in the industry’s favour. Accordingly, the court held that the department acted bona fide and reasonably.
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.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold an interdict against the applicant to stop the applicant from mining until the respective land in contention was re-zoned to permit mining in terms of provincial legislation. The minister had earlier granted mining permits to the appellant to mine areas zoned as public open spaces in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. The appellant contended the act was superior to the provincial legislation and Supreme Court had erred in upholding the High Court interdict against it. The appellant had claimed that mining fell under the exclusive competence of national government and that the proposition that provincial legislation regulating municipal planning applied to it would be tantamount to allowing municipal government to intrude into the terrain of the national sphere.
The Constitutional Court in determining whether to grant leave considered whether the provincial legislation that required rezoning did not apply to land used for mining.
The court, in rejecting the applicant’s argument, held that the provincial law and the national law served different purposes which fall within the competences of the local and the national sphere. Each sphere was exercising power allocated to it by the Constitution and regulated by the relevant legislation.
The court concluded that the interdicts were invalidly issued and held further that in order to bring clarity to the application of competing laws, leave to appeal ought to be granted in order to deal with the constitutional issues raised.