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 court considered an application for the applicants to be compensated before removing them from their land for improvements to those sites, as well as an interdict restraining the respondents from removing or demolishing the houses of the applicants without compensating them. The facts surrounded the applicant’s right to occupy the land based on allocation of land letters. The respondents argued that the applicants were in unlawful occupation as only the Urban Land Committee could allocate land. Further, that the Minister had published a legal notice advising the applicants that the land would be taken.
The court considered whether the right to land under s 44 of the Land Act 1979, which governs that the seizure of land for public purposes, was correctly administered. Further, the court stated that in Lesotho, land is not subject to individual ownership, and a person only has a right to occupy and use the land and when land has been taken away by custom, it has to be replaced.
The court found that the applicants, who had collectively spent millions on improvements to their houses, could not have their land taken away and their rights ignored. Further, the court held that peoples land could not be seized without them being consulted and being heard.
The court found that the legal notice issued by the minister was contrary to law as there was no prior consultation and it did not specify the purpose for seizure or the properties to be seized. Accordingly, the application succeeded.
This was an application for a temporary injunction to restrain the defendant from cutting down trees, felling logs or dealing in whatever manner with the plaintiff’s land.
The plaintiff contended that the respondent had committed trespass and malicious damage to the property on his land. On the other hand, the defendant argued that it was not the registered owner of the land but had entered into an agreement with the government to harvest forest produce in government forests in exchange for royalties.
The court found that the plaintiff was the registered owner of the land and that the defendant lacked the capacity to question the validity of the plaintiff’s ownership.
It was further held that the plaintiff had established the requirements for an injunction. The plaintiff established a prima facie case with a likelihood of success against the defendant. Further, that if the relief was not granted the plaintiff would suffer irreparable loss as all the trees on his land would be cut down.
Accordingly, the application succeeded with costs to the respondents. The court issued the injunction and directed the applicant to mark out the boundaries of his land so that the respondent would excluded from its operations.
This was a review against the respondent’s decisions to set apart land on Funzi Island and grant registration titles to Pati Limited. The applicant prayed for prohibition and certiorari orders since the respondent made the decisions in excess of its jurisdiction and power.
The applicant argued that the land in dispute was forest land, and that no allotment could have legally taken place on the land unless there was a declaration that it had ceased to be forest land. The court found that when the proceedings commenced, it was assumed that the land was trust land, and despite argument, the applicant failed to adduce enough evidence to prove that the land was forest land. The land was thus declared to be trust land.
Secondly on the applicant’s disputed locus standi, the court found that the applicant’s properties were separated by about 200 metres from the disputed property. Further, the court found that even if the land was forest land, only the authorities in the Ministry in charge of the forest lands had the capacity to defend it. Consequently, it was held that the applicants lacked the requisite locus standi.
Finally, the court found that the respondent complied with the requirements in the Trust Act and dismissed the orders prayed for.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
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.
The applicant made applications for interdicts prohibiting the use of various properties other than for residential purposes according to the Manzini Development Code of 1991.
The respondents raised technical objections to the legality of the code. The respondents argued that the applicants used the words "scheme" and "code" interchangeably to refer to the code instead of “scheme” as per the Town Planning Act of 1961. It was found that the document met the requirements and that the "code" or "scheme" was the document specifically provided for in the act, regardless of the name by which it was called.
The respondent argued that the code was invalid for lacking any changes proving that it had not been reviewed periodically according to s 21(4) of the act. The court determined whether the term “shall” in s 21(4) of the act was peremptory or merely directive. The provision states that, “every approved scheme shall be reviewed periodically at intervals of not more than five years.” The court applied the rule that a provision is merely directory if it is in positive terms and lacks a penal sanction. Consequently, it was held that reviewing would not always lead to a change in the schemes at all times. The court also held that the operation of the code was valid since it had been previously approved by the minister.
Accordingly, the objections were dismissed.