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 matter concerned an allegation that the accused’s filling stations presented an environmental risk. Having been granted leave, the prosecutor, an environmental advocacy organisation instituted a private prosecution in the Gauteng Division of the High Court against the accused, a fuel supplies company.
The prosecutor claimed that it had complied with all the legislative requirements set out in s33 of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 to enable it to initiate such a prosecution. Counts 1 to 21 of the indictment alleged that the accused had contravened ss 21(1), 22(1) and 29(4) of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1986 (“ECA”) as read together with other supporting environmental legislation. The said s 22(2) provided that authorisation of activities like construction of a service station would only be issued after consideration of reports concerning their impact on the environment. The accused formally pleaded to the charges divided into two sections. The first was a plea under s 106(1)(h) denying the prosecutor’s entitlement to prosecute and the other was a plea of not guilty under s 106(1)(b).
The court held that the claim under s 106(1)(h) on defence of want of title to prosecute failed. The court concluded that the prosecutor's case was straightforward and that the accused breached a duty relating to the protection of the environment. It held that in terms of s22(1) of the ECA the undertaking of certain identified activities was prohibited without written authorisation. The accused was convicted on 17 counts and acquitted on four.
The matter dealt with coal mining operations occurring adjacent to a public park in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The first and second applicants were a registered trust pursuing environmental causes and an association of members of communities affected by open-cast mining in the area respectively. The applicants, in the public interest or alternatively affected parties, sought an interdict to shut the mine down completely for being in contravention of s 24 and s 38 of the South African Constitution. The relief sought was subsequently altered to an application to prevent illegal mining. Of the nine respondents cited, the first respondent, a mining company opposed the grant of any relief against it.
The court considered whether the first respondent complied with various national, provincial and local government legislative instruments. The court noted that the applicants were not entirely sure if the interdict they sought was final or interim. The court concluded that the applicants failed to make out a proper case for the relief as claimed, since they failed to put up convincing evidence to support their contentions that the first respondent was mining unlawfully and without the requisite authorisations. The court found that the applicants had not afforded the concerned authorities the opportunity to fully investigate their complaints before deciding to institute proceedings. The court cited various statutes that created regulatory authorities which were empowered to enforce compliance with the statutes they administered. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
This was an appeal to the Constitutional Court against the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the unlawfulness of the water meters under operation “Gcin’amanzi”, a project addressing water losses and non-payment of water services in Soweto. This was done by installing pre-paid meters to charge consumers for use of water in excess of the free 6 kilolitre per household monthly water allowance. With access to water being a constitutionally guaranteed right, the Supreme Court ordered that the applicants supply residents with at least 60litres of water, hence quantifying what “sufficient water” as given in the Constitution.
The court in this matter had to deliberate on what the meaning of “sufficient water” was as required by the Constitution and the lawfulness of the pre-paid water meters.
The Constitutional Court found that it was not appropriate for a court to give a quantified content to what constitutes “sufficient water” because this would be best addressed by the government which pegged it. Further, given that, 80 percent of the households in the City would receive adequate water under the present policy, the Court concluded that it would not have been unreasonable for the City not to have supplied more.
With regard to the pre-paid water meters, the Court held that the national legislation and the City’s own by-laws authorised the local authority to introduce pre-paid water meters as part of Operation Gcin’amanzi. Accordingly, it held that the installation of the meters was neither unfair nor discriminatory.
The matter dealt with an application for leave to appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the first respondent to acquire a prospecting licence in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act over the applicant’s land.
Appeals to the High Court, and later to the Supreme Court were dismissed on the ground that the community had failed to file for review timeously in terms of the provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. The merits of the case were not heard in both matters.
In determining the application, the Constitutional Court considered the following: whether there were internal remedies; whether there was proper consultation and whether consideration was given to the environmental requirements.
It found that an internal appeal was available to the applicants, but the respondents’ failure to deal with the appeal frustrated the process, although the review application had been brought in time. Further, the court held that the granting of prospecting rights was an invasion of a property owner’s rights and that the purpose of consultation with landowners, was to provide them with the information necessary to make an informed decision on how to respond to the application.
The court concluded that the decision-maker had not given the community a hearing or complied with the fairness requirements of the Act, and that the environmental requirements in terms of the Act had not been satisfied. Accordingly, leave to appeal was granted and the prospecting rights on the community’s land were set aside.
This was a mediation report regarding an action commenced by the plaintiffs against the installation of a water pump and other construction works on what was believed to be customary land. The plaintiffs sought to restrain the defendant from interfering with their customary rights on the land. They contended that the water pump installation plan violated their right to the use and enjoyment of their customary land. The matter was set for mediation.
The issue for resolution was whether the project interfered with the customary land held by the plaintiffs.
An agreement was reached by the parties to the effect that the project was located in an intersection of the road reserve which was public land pursuant to the Waterworks Act and that the defendants had obtained the requisite authority to install the water pump and related works. The proposed construction of the water pump was therefore not in violation of any customary rights for as long as it was restricted within the road reserve. Accordingly, the matter was resolved.
This was an appeal against the validity of an order to the Land Valuation Board to assess the compensation payable in respect of buildings and farms belonging to inhabitants of an old village.
The facts of this case were that the appellant, a mining company, requested the respondents and other inhabitants of a village, which adjoined its mining area, to vacate the village and paid them compensation for their buildings, which were later demolished. Section 71 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 1986, provided for compensation for disturbances to owners and occupiers of lands affected by mineral operations. The appellant argued that this compensation was limited to areas within the mineral operations and that these areas were not land designated within its mining lease.
The Supreme Court considered the lawfulness of the board’s decision to award further compensation under s71 of the act. It found that since the mining operations of the appellant affected the owners or occupiers of land they were entitled to statutory compensation. The court stated that whereas compensation for the buildings of the respondents was settled by agreement with the appellants, as permitted under s71(3) of the act, compensation for the disturbance of their farming activities at the old village was mandatory under the act.
The court, however, stated that the lower courts came to the right conclusion but their reasons were not sound in law. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed but the reasons were substituted for the Supreme Court’s decision.
In this Court of Appeal case, the court determined who breached the contract of oil supply between the appellant and the respondent. The contract ran into a deadlock after three deliveries of the product when the appellants refused to accept one of the respondents’ deliveries upon presentation. The reason given for the resultant stalemate was that the product was not of the specification ordered.
The court below had penalised the appellant for unnecessarily breaching a contract. The appellant felt aggrieved and appealed to seek an overturn of the trial court’s judgment entered in favour of the respondents.
The Court of Appeal thus determined if there was a variation in the contract, when did that occur and also what did the variation entail.
In response, the Court of Appeal held that there was nothing on record to persuade the court that the respondent product was not of the specification ordered. The court thus maintained the decision of the court below. However, the Court of Appeal noted that the cost granted in the court below was exorbitant. In the end, the court dismissed the appellant case, but the costs awarded in the court below was accordingly varied.
Constitutional law – Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013 – Declaration of Rights – right to water (s 77) – legislative measures to ensure supply of potable water – duty of urban council to ensure water distributed fairly
Human rights – right to water – legislative measures to ensure supply of potable water – duty of urban council to ensure water distributed fairly
This was a Supreme Court case that revolved around an agreement between the parties which was suddenly terminated. The agreement demanded that the respondent to import oil resources on behalf of the Government of Namibia. The arrangement proved to be failure as the cost of importing petroleum was high against the market price. Consequently, the first appellant, acting in ministerial capacity decided to end the agreement. The first respondent felt aggrieved and filed a suit in the High Court, asking it to review the decision of the cabinet that terminated the said contract.
As such, the main issue, in this case, was whether the cabinet of the government of the Republic of Namibia acted lawfully when it revoked the mandate of the respondents to import petroleum products. The High Court in determining this issue held that the cabinet had no legally tenable reason(s) to end the contract in question.
However, on appeal, the Supreme Court held that under the Namibian Constitution in article 27(2), the executive power of the Republic of Namibia vests in the president and the cabinet. It further held that under the article, the cabinet has the role of supervising the activities of the government departments. Since the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents are government parastatals the cabinet justifiably exercised its regulatory powers in the best interest of the Namibian people.
The Supreme Court thus overturned the decision of the High Court and accordingly upheld the appeal.
The court considered an application for a mandamus by the applicant, as a result of the respondents having applied for the consolidation and rezoning of 2 plots of land. The respondents had their application conditionally approved upon submitting an engineer’s drawing for the erection of retaining walls as part of flood protection and to create 54 client accessible parking bays.
The court considered if there was a contravention of s 44(5) of the applicant’s town planning scheme in accordance with the Town Planning Ordinance No 18 of 1954 as amended. Without drawing plans being submitted to the applicant for approval, the respondents admitted that a temporary corrugated iron wall was erected on the riverbank which was next to the two properties. On their own admission, the respondents did not create the 54 accessible parking bays.
The court found that the respondents failed to adhere to the condition of their approved application, so they were ordered to remove the illegally constructed corrugated iron wall, to submit an engineer’s drawing for the erection of the retaining walls to be constructed on the properties, within three months of the order. They were also ordered to construct the retaining wall within six months from the date of the approval by the applicant of the engineering drawing, as well as to remove all building materials and rubble from one plot in order to create 54 accessible parking bays on one of the properties. Respondents were ordered to pay applicant’s costs.
This was an appeal against the High Court’s decision that declared the land tax imposed under ss 76 to 80 of the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act as constitutional.
The court determined whether s 76 contravened the constitutional principal of separation of powers which gives the National Assembly power to provide for revenue and taxation.
The appellant contended that the law in question went against separation of powers by devolving legislative power to a minister.
The court held that s 76 did not conflict with the constitutional principles of separation powers as the power of the National Assembly had been exercised by the stipulation of a tax as authorised by the Constitution. The court found that the only role of the minister was to set a rate according to a procedure set out in the regulations. The court stated further that in any event, this rate was subject to the approval of the National Assembly and as such, no independent power was vested in the minister.
The court noted that the regulations that were challenged set out how the land was to be administered. The court held that the appellant’s claim lacked sufficient particularity required for pleadings in constitutional litigation.
Accordingly, the court held that the appellant had failed to establish how these regulations contravened constitutional provisions and dismissed the appeal. The court also dismissed the appellant’s prayer with no order as to costs.
Customary Law – Communal Land – Communal land rights – Power to evict a leaseholder from a communal land – Whether the Communal Land Reform Act, 2002 empowers a leaseholder to cancel a sub-lease and evict a sub lessee from a communal land area.
In this case the applicants sought an urgent interdict preventing the respondents from demolishing homes in the Mangwaneni, Manzana and Makholokholo, through which the new construction of the New Mbabane Bypass road was carried out.
First, the court had to consider whether the matter was urgent and held that applicants needed to prove the matter’s urgency. The court found that the applicants had shown the urgency of the matter in their founding affidavit.
Second, the respondents argued that the application did not adequately describe the ninth applicant and that it could therefore not be admitted. Considering existing jurisprudence, the court held that a relaxed approach should be taken on the issue to not inhibit public interest litigation. Consequently, the court condoned the citation of the parties.
Finally, the respondents argued that the applicants did not fulfill the conditions for an urgent interdict because they could seek compensation from the committee responsible for compensating resettled people. The applicants claimed that the committee no longer existed. Thus, the court had to consider whether the committee responsible for compensating the people who had been resettled by the project was still active. Given this situation, the court decided to postpone the matter, ordering the applicants to submit their claims to the secretary of the committee within seven days and ordering the committee to address these claims within 21 days. The secretary of the committee was also ordered to submit a report to the court. The court postponed all outstanding matters until then.