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 appeal, concerning a dispute between two companies over the right to mine salt in the Northern Cape.
The high court initially dismissed the appellant’s counter-application in which it sought to review and set aside the Minster's approval of the 1st respondent’s application for a mining permit over the disputed property.
The question on appeal was whether the high court was entitled to refuse to review and set aside the Minister's approval of the 1st respondent’s application without considering whether the 1st respondent had consulted with the appellant, as an 'interested and affected party' as contemplated in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002.
The court found that the answer to the question was dependent on the legal basis that the appellant relied on for its occupancy of the property. As the appellant’s occupation of the property was premised on the validity of a permit, which the high court found to be a forgery and thus invalid, the question arose as to whether the appellant had a right to be consulted even though the permit was invalid.
The court, after careful consideration of the requirements set out in the Act, held that a person that relies on an illegally issued permit to occupy land has no right to be consulted by an applicant for a mining right as contemplated in the Act because they do not qualify as an 'interested and affected party'.
This case concerned a preliminary point raised that the first and second respondents’ legal practitioner should be prohibited from appearing on their behalf. The applicant contended that the legal practitioner who was present at a meeting where the Mining Development Board discussed the shareholding of the respondents, was intimately interested in the subject matter of the proceedings. The applicant further contended that the same legal practitioner should not be allowed to appear for the fifth respondent, the minister of mines and mining development, who ought to be represented only by the Attorney-General as the principal legal advisor to the Government.
In response, the practitioner contended that there was no evidence to determine the depth of his alleged involvement in the matters referred to and that the allegations were based on speculation. He further submitted that he had authority to represent the Attorney-General.
The court had to determine whether it was proper for the legal practitioner to appear for the first, second and fifth respondents.
The court observed that it was important that a legal practitioner should at all times retain his independence in relation to his client and the litigation. On account of the practitioner’s previous involvements with the first and second respondents, the court determined that he could not be allowed to serve as their legal practitioner.
With regard to the representation of the fifth respondent, the court did not make any pronouncement on the basis that it lacked sufficient information. Accordingly, the court upheld the preliminary objection.
In this Supreme Court case, the first respondent applied for the permit to drill boreholes in the Khan River for uranium mining activities. Subsequently, the second respondent granted the rights to use the boreholes and the water to the first respondent allegedly in the exercise of its powers provided under the Water Act of 1954. The appellant’s case against the respondents was that the wildlife on its farm depended on the naturally occurring underground water to support natural habitats. Overusing the water from the rare sources in the area would, therefore, disturb the ecosystem.
At the High Court level, the issue was to determine whether under the act the second respondent had the powers to grant such rights. The High Court held that the powers to grant such rights were limited to subterranean waters. Moreover, the court held that since under the act sections 27, 28 and 30, the president proclaims the underground waters. The president had never declared the areas allocated to the first respondent as such the permits were a nullity. As a result, there was nothing to be determined by the court in favour of the appellant.
On appeal, the Supreme Court agreed that the permit issued was a nullity. However, it held that the High Court ought to have decided the case in favour of the appellant since, in law, illegal acts can create reviewable actions. Finally, the Supreme Court upheld the appellant’s claim.