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 matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal that upheld a decision of the High Court to order that compensation be paid to the respondents for damage caused to economic crops, fish ponds and lakes by the activities of an oil company. The appellants contended that the respondents, despite being occupiers of the land, were customary tenants and that they (appellants) were exclusively entitled to compensation as the owners of the land. The Court of Appeal in upholding the decision of the High Court held that the matter was not predicated on title to land but rather one for entitlement to compensation and granted judgment in favour of the respondents.
The Supreme Court considered whether the lower court was wrong to have heldáthat title to the land, the subject of claim for compensation by the parties, was not in issue. The court held that the issue of claim of title was certainly not before the trialácourt and the learned trial judge was right in not consideringáand determining that issue in his judgment. Accordingly, it held that the court below was right in upholding the trial court's decision that the identity of the land in question was not an issue and claim was solely one for compensation and not title. Accordingly the court dismissed the appeal.