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 was an appeal from the High Court to the Supreme Court. The case concerned a ministerial notice stating that nuclear energy prospecting licenses regarding certain areas will not be provided. The appellant was allegedly an aspiring applicant. He thus felt aggrieved with the notice.
In the High Court, it was held that the appellant lacked legal capacity to challenge the notice as the notice did not create any triable issue. Aggrieved, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.
Thus, the main issue for determination was whether the respondent's notice exempting certain areas from being prospected for nuclear resources was unconstitutional. The appellant’s argument was that the denial of the prospecting license violated his constitutional right to work.
In response, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision, but it disagreed with the High Court that the respondent lacked the legal capacity. According to the Supreme Court, the appellant would have been successful if the minister had no statutory powers to issue the notice or if the process was procedural. However, the minister had such powers under section 122(1) of the Mineral (Prospecting and Mining) Act of 1992. Consequently, the Court held that it cannot order the minister to issue the license if the notice is still in existence. Also, the Supreme Court held that the constitutional provision on the right to work does not mean that people can conduct mining activities without being regulated given the environmental challenges.
Following this, the appellant's case was dismissed with costs.
The plaintiff in this case claimed restitution for a breach of contract. The court determined whether the defendant was in breach of contract for failing to install a working borehole in a geohydrological environment where the plaintiff's farm was located.
The defendant raised a counterclaim that the plaintiff had accepted that work was completed but failed to pay the balance of the agreed amount. The court applied the rule in Du Plessis v Ndjavera that the plaintiff is under no obligation to perform before defendant has completed his performance.
The court held that the defendant was at fault for failing to assess the soil formation in the area and ended up using the incorrect drilling method. The court observed that the defendant admitted to using the riskier direct flush air percussion instead of the mud rotary method to save on expenses and thus failed to complete performance.
Accordingly, the court held that the defendant was in breach of contract and the plaintiff was entitled to cancel the
agreement and claim restitution. The counterclaim was also dismissed with costs.
This matter dealt with a dispute as to whether there was illegal mining by the respondent on the applicant’s exclusive prospecting licence.
The High Court considered whether expert evidence was required to establish a cause of action. The relevant test was whether a witness proffering an opinion is competent to give one on the matter in dispute. In this case, the court considered that only a land surveyor would be competent to determine the precise boundaries of disputed land. The applicant’s witness was a geologist and not a land surveyor. Accordingly, the court held that expert evidence of a land surveyor was necessary and failure to present it was fatal.
The court also considered whether it was permissible for the applicant to introduce new evidence in the replying papers. The court relied on the principle that in motion proceedings the affidavits constitute both the pleadings and the evidence. Furthermore, the applicant could not substitute a different claim in the replying papers. Accordingly, the court did not consider the evidence of the land surveyor tendered by the applicant during motion proceedings.
Finally, the court considered whether to impose a special costs order against the applicant on the scale as between attorney and own client. The principle followed was that punitive costs should only be awarded in exceptional circumstances. The court considered that there was no demonstrable reprehensible conduct by the applicant. Accordingly, the costs only include the costs of one instructing and one instructed counsel.