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 in the Court of Appeal against a judgment of the High Court which had dismissed an appeal to it against a judgment of the Judicial Commissioner’s Court, the effect of which was to uphold a decision of a local court. The issue concerned the removal of wood from a plantation by the appellant, which the respondent contended belonged to the community of which he was a headman. The appellant’s reasoning that the plantation was situated in his grandfather’s field was rejected by the court which ordered the appellant to desist from using the plantation and never to use it. The appellant was not satisfied with the ruling, so he appealed unsuccessfully, first to the Central Court, then to the Judicial Commissioner’s Court and finally to the High Court.
The issue for the court’s consideration was whether the local court had the jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The court observed that the matter concerned provisions of the Chieftainship Act 22 of 1968 pursuant to which the judge held that the finding by the Office of the Chief did not preclude the appellant from seeking recourse in the Local Court. The court upheld the High Court judge’s view that the dispute between the parties was not a dispute involving claims to; title, exemption from title, or overriding title. Therefore, the submission that the dispute must be dealt with in the Land Court or the District Land Court was not upheld. The appeal was dismissed with costs.
The court considered a petition whereby the petitioners averred that they were land owners on which a wind farm was to be developed. The respondents bought the project rights from the initial owners whose application for the construction of the farm had been successful and sought to expand the farm. They obtained permission from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) by renewing the initial project application.
The petitioners alleged that this was against the provisions of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act and the Constitution as the expansion was not implemented in accordance with the law and would violate their constitutional rights to a clean and healthy environment and their rights to own property. The expansion entailed the farm would encroaching onto their surrounding properties.
The issue faced by the court was whether the expansion was legal and whether the rights of the petitioners had been violated or not.
The court held that the expansion could not be logically carried out at the site captured in the original Environmental Impact Assessment and the EIA study report initially filed with NEMA. It could therefore, not be renewed. They had to file a new application and therefore the renewal of the application was contrary to law.
This failure to adhere to the EIA regulations potentially threatened the petitioners’ right to a clean and healthy environment but not their right to own property as the farm did not make use of their land nor did it threaten to use it up.
The court considered a petition stop the development of flats within a residential area. The property was initially planned as a single dwelling unit but the developer applied for change of user to multiple dwelling units which was approved. The petitioners claimed that the change of user was irregularly granted and claimed that approval from the National Environmental Management Agency was improper because the county government approved the change of user despite multiple objections from the public.
The petitioners sought an order declaring that the decision of the first respondent to change the user was unconstitutional and null and void. Further, that the approval of the re-development amounted to a dereliction of duties.
The court considered 1) whether a proper Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted, 2) whether the process of planning approval was lawfully adhered to and, 3) whether there was a violation of the petitioners' constitutional rights.
It held that the NEMA processes were casually done as objections to the project, were not given a hearing and were not considered before the decision to allow the project was made.
Further, it held that there was no consultation with interested parties as was required by the law. This meant that no proper EIA was carried out and therefore the process of planning approval was legally flawed.
As a result of this, the court held that claims for violations of the right to a clean and healthy environment were breached or at the very least, under threat.
This was an application for an order of remedy of spoliation and an interdict.
The applicantĺs main argument was that the actions of the respondentsĺ occupation of the diamond mining site at the Chiadzwa Concession amounted to an act of spoliation against the fifth respondent.
Firstly, the court determined whether the applicant (a foreign company) was required to furnish security for the costs of the respondents before the application could proceed. The court noted that such orders are matters of its discretion and are only issued when there is a reason to believe that a company will be unable to pay the costs of the suit.
Secondly, the court found that the second to fourth respondents had come to court with Ĺdirty handsĺ but had cleansed themselves.
Thirdly, it was held that the applicant (a shareholder of the fifth respondent) had the locus standi to bring the derivative action as an exception to the rule in Foss v Harbottle  2 Hare 461, 67 ER 189.
Finally, the court found that the applicant had proved the elements of spoliation: peaceful and undisturbed possession and the act of spoliation on a balance of probabilities. However, the court held that allowing the fifth respondent to resume mining operations as before, when the right to do so expired, would be contrary to public policy. Nevertheless, the court noted that the applicant was entitled to a final order and ordered the restoration of its rights when the validity of the special grants was regularized.
The applicants sought to review and set aside the decision of the first respondent to cancel a lease agreement concluded by the 4th applicant after the 4th applicant disregarded environmental standards on wastewater discharge per the agreement.
The court determined whether the first to third applicants’ irregular appointment as liquidators deprived them of locus standi (capacity) to seek review. It was held that these applicants had the required locus standi.
The court also determined whether the application was brought in reasonable time given the delay in filing the application after becoming aware of the cancellation of the lease. It was noted that there is no prescribed time for the institution of review proceedings. However, the court found that the applicants failed to explain the delay and held it to be unreasonable.
The court held that the relationship between the 4th applicant and first respondent was a contractual relationship. The court considered whether the Municipality validly cancelled the lease agreement before the liquidators’ election to continue with the lease agreement. The court considered clause 16.1 of the agreement and observed that the agreement required no formalities for cancellation. It applied the test of whether a reasonable person would conclude that the proper performance will not be forthcoming and held that the Municipality had a right to cancel the lease.
It was also held that the review relief sought was unsustainable since the decision to cancel the agreement did not constitute reviewable administrative action despite being made by a person who would ordinarily perform administrative functions.
The applicants abandoned their claim for declaratory order to exercise an improvement lien and moved for amendment of the relief in prayer 3. However, the amendment was not requested or granted. Hence the two prayers were dismissed.
Accordingly, the matter was dismissed with costs.