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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The court considered an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, staying the proceedings of the High Court.
The origin of the appeal was an application for a mandatory injunction, against the respondent, for disturbing the “natural calm flow” of the Volta River, into the sea, while executing their contractual obligations (marine reclamation). The Respondent appealed 3 interlocutory applications in the High Court, which appeals were still pending.
The stay was granted to the respondents following an application for judgment to be entered against them.
The appellant raised six grounds of appeal, however the court held that the determination of one main issue would dispose of the appeal. Thus, the court had to determine whether the Court of Appeal erred in granting the stay of proceedings.
The court noted that all the interlocutory orders were on appeal before the Court of Appeal. The court found that the court of appeal was right to halt the proceedings, since the determination of the interlocutory orders could have a serious effect on the case before the High Court.
It was further noted that an order staying proceedings is interlocutory, and discretionary and should not be interfered with unless it might result in serious injustice. The court found that the appellant failed to demonstrate that the discretion exercised would result to injustice.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
This case concerned a long standing land dispute. The appellants herein appealed against the judgement by the Court of Appeal that reversed the judgement by the High Court was which went in favour of the appellants.
The appellants claim to the land was based on purchase from a third party. In support of their case, they presented a land certificate. The defendants contended that the land claimed by plaintiffs fell within their domain, so they counter claimed for a declaration of title.
The High Court found that the respondents failed to produce sufficient evidence to prove that the land was rightfully theirs, as per the requirements of s11 of the Evidence Act of 1975. The appellants, however, proved their case.
The Court of Appeal reversed the High Court judgement, on the sole ground of a 1992 judgement that declared that the land belonged to the defendants.
The Supreme Court, therefore, had to reconsider the evidence and finally settle the dispute. The court found that a close reading of the 1992 judgement casts doubt on the correctness of the Court of Appeal’s position. It found that the 1992 judgement did not actually concern the land in question and that the Court of Appeal, therefore, erred in its finding. Further, upon review of the evidence, the court found that the balance of probabilities favored the appellants.
Accordingly, it restored the first judgement, with an adjustment to the amount of general damages.
The first plaintiff concluded a tribute agreement with the second and third defendants that was to last for ten years. The Mining Commissioner rejected this agreement since it was not registrable. This agreement was replaced by a three-year tribute agreement. When this agreement expired, the first plaintiff entered into another agreement with the second plaintiff and they sought an order registering this agreement and the eviction of the second and third defendant. The eviction order was opposed on grounds that the first agreement was still valid.
In interpreting s289 and 290 of the Mines and Minerals Act on tribute agreements, the court made a distinction between directory and peremptory provisions. The court noted that it is impossible to lay down any conclusive test to distinguish the two provisions. However, provisions in negative form and containing penal sanctions are to be regarded as peremptory rather than directory. The court also noted that the intention of the legislature is to be considered when distinguishing the two.
The court found that the provisions were couched in negative form and that their contravention was to be visited with penal sanctions, hence peremptory. Additionally, it was found that the approval was meant to protect the interests of the tributor and to avoid premature cessation of mining operations.
Accordingly, the court declared that the first agreement was invalid and unenforceable; and that the second agreement was valid but had expired. Consequently, the second and third defendants were ordered to vacate or be evicted.
The court considered an application for the granting of an order to evict the respondent pending the hearing of an appeal. The applicant was the registered title holder of four mineral claims. It instituted action seeking an eviction of the respondent from its registered claims, which was subsequently granted. The dispute between the parties related to ownership and mining claims of the minerals. It was not disputed that the mineral claims were registered in the name of the applicant.
The court considered the parties’ rights of ownership of the minerals. These rights were governed by s 172 of the Mines and Minerals Act, which stated that every holder of a registered block of claim would possess the exclusive right of mining or deposit of the mineral in respect of which the block was registered which occurred within the vertical limits of his block. The court found that the applicant had the exclusive right as the registered holder of the claim.
The court found that to suspend the eviction pending the appeal would entitle the respondent to continue mining, which was an untenable situation and would create a judicial anomaly where the court became a party to the respondent’s unlawful conduct. Accordingly, the court granted the application.
This was an application for a spoliation order to summarily undo the wrongful deprivation of property without investigating the merits.
The applicants claimed that their immovable property (10 Metcalf Road, Greendale) and equipment for water abstraction were seized by the first to sixth respondents.
The first to the sixth respondents raised two preliminary objections: that the matter was not urgent and that there was need for police to join as co-respondents since they were the ones who had seized the applicants’ property. The first objection was abandoned while the second was dealt with in the merits of the case.
The court noted that the applicants were required to prove peaceful and undisturbed control before the disturbance and that the respondent took or destroyed the control unlawfully. However, the applicant would not succeed if the respondent proved valid defenses like they did not commit the spoliation or that they were not involved in the spoliation.
The court found that the applicants were in peaceful and undisturbed possession of the property and equipment although, illegally. However, the court noted that the applicants claimed that they were despoiled of their equipment by the first to sixth respondents who were not natural persons but failed to state who acted on their behalf. The court therefore held that the respondents were not involved in the despoiling.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
Constitutional law – Constitution of Zimbabwe 1980 – Declaration of Rights – right to protection of the law – prosecution of former farm employees for unlawfully remaining on farm after acquisition – legislation creating an offence to do so constitutional – no constitutional issue arising
Land – acquisition – former employees remaining on farm – no right to do so – employment ceased on acquisition of farm – liable to prosecution for occupying gazetted land without lawful authority
This was an application by the plaintiff seeking an order declaring the first and second defendants’ construction of a milling plant and prospecting activities as unlawful, for interfering with the plaintiff’s agricultural activities.
The first defendant opposed the reliefs sought, on grounds that he was the lawful owner of the mining blocks.
The court first assessed the evidence and concluded that the defendants were not in compliance of the procedures set out under the Mines and Minerals Act, for registering the claims and the subsequent conversion into blocks. The court further held that the defendants failed to show any plan lodged with the Commissioner of Mines, as required under the Mines and Minerals Act.
Lastly, the court determined whether the land in dispute was cleared on or before the registration of the blocks and whether such land is the only portion, suitable of for farming. After outlining the rights of various parties, the court concluded that the plaintiff had no right to clear the land pegged for mining. However, the court could not make a holding on whether the prospecting operations were interfering with the plaintiff’s agricultural activities. This is because the plaintiff failed to
clarify whether the cleared field was located 450 metres from the principal homestead. The court therefore referred this issue to the Mining Commissioner for investigation and report, according to s 345 of the Mines and Minerals Act.
The court ordered the defendants to stop mining operations without complying with the law and to pay costs.
The court considered an urgent application for an order interdicting the first respondent from carrying on mining operations on the applicants’ mineral claims. At some point, the applicants and the first respondent had business dealings involving minerals from those claims. The respondent then went on to register mining claims over a piece of land which included the first applicant’s mining claims. The respondent argued that the matter was not urgent, and that the relief sought was not competent as it was final in effect.
The court considered whether the applicants had established a right to the relief sought. The court observed that the relief sought was an interim interdict, the requirements for which were: a clear right; irreparable harm; balance of convenience in favour of granting the relief, and no other satisfactory remedy. The court found that the respondent intended to mine on the applicants claim, and although the mining hadn’t commenced, the applicants could not wait until it acted and had established the prejudice likely to be suffered.
In determining the balance of convenience, the court weighed the prejudice to the applicant if the interdict was not granted against the harm to the respondent if the relief was granted. In this instance, as the mining activities were not being carried on yet, there was no prejudice to the respondent. Accordingly, the court found that the requirements for the interdict were met and the application succeeded.
The court considered a criminal appeal, where the applicants had been charged for contravening s7(1)(a) or (b) of the Communal Land Act, by occupying or using communal land without lawful authority. The applicants pleaded guilty and were convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $5000 or 30 days in prison. The appellants appealed the conviction on the ground that the court committed an irregularity by failing to proceed in terms of the correct procedure.
They contended that by entering a guilty plea, the court had a duty to safeguard the fair trial rights of the accused by adopting a procedure which was most likely to suggest a defence where there was one.
The court considered whether the appellant’s conviction was lawful. It observed that with unrepresented accused persons, there was the ever-present likelihood that out of ignorance of the law, a person would admit to charges of a complex nature out of a desire to draw sympathy of the police or the courts and the onus was upon the court to choose a procedure which would have given the appellants a possible defence.
The court found that the conviction was wrong and remitted the matter back to the lower court. In addition, the court below would be required to take cognizance of s 16 of the Act which required that following a conviction, an order for eviction be granted. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded.
This was an application for an order for spoliation. The applicants claimed that they had been unlawfully dispossessed of their quiet and peaceful possession of their property by the first respondent. The first respondent contended that he was issued with a prospecting licence by the second respondent on the same land and that he entered the property on the strength of the authority from second respondent. The applicants alleged that the first respondent entered their land by cutting a fence and causing damage to their property.
The court considered whether or not there had been a spoliation and whether the applicants were entitled to relief. The court established that the first respondent unlawfully deprived the first applicant of its possession of the quarry stone site and that this was an unlawful invasion of the property as the land was private property.
The court noted that the first respondent had not raised any of the recognised defences in an action for spoliation. The court found that the first respondent intended to take over the quarry site by forcibly removing them applicants from the quarry site without following due process as he did not possess a court order to justify his intended action.
Accordingly, the court held that the requirements for an order for spoliation had been met and ordered the respondents to return the applicant’s status quo prior to the spoliation.
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.
The court considered an appeal against a decision of the High Court dismissing an application for a remedy over a land dispute on the grounds that there were disputes of fact that could not be ascertained, which the appellants should have foreseen.
The first, second and third appellants were members of the fourth appellant, a company of Swazi indigenous people, formed to co-ordinate the ploughing of sugar cane by indigenous Swazis. The first and second respondent were adult Swazis employed by a wildlife business undertaking.
The court considered 1) whether the application should have been dismissed due to a failure by the applicants to join parties who had a substantial interest in the matter, and 2) whether the applicants succeeded in establishing that they were in peaceful and undisturbed possession of the land when they were evicted.
The court found that the appellants did not attempt to join, as respondents, two parties, including a trust controlling the wildlife business undertaking, which had a direct interest in the disputed land. The appellants argued that a trust is not a juristic person, but the court found that legal proceedings can be brought by and against a trust. It was also established that before they moved onto the land the appellants had already been removed from that land and were aware that their right to occupy the land was disputed. Based on the court’s findings and failure to comply with the rules in the filing of heads of argument, the appeal was dismissed[kb1].
At the heart of this dispute was a farmers’ association, the applicant in this case, and its use of land in the Nkambeni Area. The association was formed, with the chief’s consent after he was assured that the community unanimously supported the project to turn their land into commercial property. The dispute initially arose because the second respondent was denied membership of the association because his younger brother was already representing their family. This offended the second respondent who considered himself to be the legitimate representative. The dispute mutated and the respondents alleged that the chief deprived them of their fields without consent. The court considered whether there had been unlawful deprivation.
Previously, the dispute was taken to traditional structures for resolution and ultimately was referred to the Swazi National Council where the King rendered a judgement. The applicant and respondents disagreed about the contents and effect of this judgement. The applicants stated that the association was given permission to pursue its activities and the respondents invited to apply for alternative land. On the other hand, the respondents claimed that traditional structures and the regional administrator ruled in their favour before the Swazi National Council was approached and that the latter declined to give a ruling on the matter.
After considering evidence and witness testimony, the court found that the applicant’s evidence was cogent and consistent while the respondents’ evidence was unsatisfactory and contradictory. Consequently, the application was granted.
The applicant sought to review and set aside the decision of the Central Farm Dwellers Tribunal (“tribunal”), to evict the applicant.
The decision handed down by the first respondent was initially taken on appeal to the tribunal, which originally denied the request for an appeal as it was filed out of time. The matter was then referred to the Supreme Court, which referred the matter back to the tribunal.
The applicant argued that the decision of the first respondent was reviewable because of the first respondent’s failure to decide whether it acquired the land on which it was situated through acquisitive prescription.
The court considered whether or not it was irregular for the first respondent to direct that the second and third respondents could evict the applicant when there was a claim by the applicant that had not been determined, i.e. the acquisition of the land. The court held that to authorize an eviction before determining the acquisitive prescription would not accord to anyone’s sense of justice.
The court found that the irregular step of the first respondent in authorizing the applicant’s eviction was sufficient to warrant a review and that the court would have to substitute the decision of the first respondent with that of its own.