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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This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to reverse the issuance of a mining licence the second appellant without hearing the respondents. The first appellant was the regional director responsible for providing mineral licenses and the second appellant was the mining company that had obtained a mining licence. The respondents wished to oppose the grant of the mining licence but a notice to the public which would have afforded them the opportunity to raise objections was not issue. The appellants contended that article 9 of the Minerals Act 50 of 1991 did not provide such a duty. The respondents contended that the right to be heard was a natural right and therefore a silent section could not be deemed to oust it.
The Supreme Court considered whether interested parties, wishing to oppose an application by the holder of mineral rights for a mining licence in terms of sec 9 of the act, were entitled to raise environmental objections and be heard by the first appellant, The court held that the right to be heard was such a critical right that it could not be easily ignored and the critical nature of environmental issues at the global level demanded that the first appellant involve the public on environmental assessment measures taken. The court stated further that there was an obligation on the first appellant to provide allow for a hearing on any objections before a license could be issued. Accordingly, the appellants’ case was dismissed.
The court considered an urgent application regarding quarrying activities, wherein the applicants sought, amongst several other grounds, to interdict the 1st and 2nd respondent from carrying out blasting and quarrying activities, pending the finalisation of the damage caused to the applicants’ houses.
The 3rd respondent operated a quarry for materials needed for the construction of mountain roads and in order to perform their job, blasting was required in order to loosen up the materials. Prior to the commencement of the work photographs of the houses within 500-meter radius of the quarry would be taken, in order to monitor and evaluate the effect of such blasting.
The respondents argued that the applicant had refused to have the liaison committee survey their buildings to detect the damage incurred due to the blasting.
The court considered whether the matter was urgent. It found that even with the applicants’ refusal, the buildings had been photographed and numbered to facilitate the assessment of damage following the blast.
On determining whether the matter was inherently urgent, the court found that the applicants were at all times aware that the blasting had occurred, yet they did nothing. On this basis, the court found that the applicants rights were not being impaired and as such their interdict was not granted. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The court considered an application for the applicants to be compensated before removing them from their land for improvements to those sites, as well as an interdict restraining the respondents from removing or demolishing the houses of the applicants without compensating them. The facts surrounded the applicant’s right to occupy the land based on allocation of land letters. The respondents argued that the applicants were in unlawful occupation as only the Urban Land Committee could allocate land. Further, that the Minister had published a legal notice advising the applicants that the land would be taken.
The court considered whether the right to land under s 44 of the Land Act 1979, which governs that the seizure of land for public purposes, was correctly administered. Further, the court stated that in Lesotho, land is not subject to individual ownership, and a person only has a right to occupy and use the land and when land has been taken away by custom, it has to be replaced.
The court found that the applicants, who had collectively spent millions on improvements to their houses, could not have their land taken away and their rights ignored. Further, the court held that peoples land could not be seized without them being consulted and being heard.
The court found that the legal notice issued by the minister was contrary to law as there was no prior consultation and it did not specify the purpose for seizure or the properties to be seized. Accordingly, the application succeeded.
The court considered an application against the decision to suspend the applicant’s license and for compensation as a result of the suspension or non-renewal of his digging license. The applicant was a diamond digger, who found a large diamond and upon enquiring from the mining advisor of the 1st respondent how to dispose of the diamond and to have it valuated, he decided to keep it, until the diamond went missing. The duty of the advisor was to issue digging licenses and to ensure diamonds were sold legally and correctly. Once the advisor noticed that the diamond was missing, he reported to the government representative.
In terms of his digging license, the applicant worked as part of a co-operative society and a mined diamond belonged to the co-operative to be sold. The applicant argued that the reason the diamond was not kept in a safe place, and rather in a grave, and not reported after it went missing was due to the advisor wanting to benefit from the sale.
The court found that there was no reason for the 1st respondent to lie, and in fact it was the applicant who wished to be the sole beneficiary and to gain from the black-market sale. It held further that there was no possibility that the diamond went missing by accident. Accordingly the application was dismissed.
This was an appeal from a decision of the High Court which declared the proclaimed Selected Development Area (SDA) as null and void for failure to comply with Legal Notice 17/1999 and an order requiring compensation of the respondents before they were evicted.
The court determined whether the respondents had legal rights arising from their occupation of the land and if such rights had been extinguished upon proclamation of the SDA, with the non- payment compensation being no bar to eviction.
The court established that the respondents were bona fide occupiers who made useful improvements on the land. Further, the court established that s 17 of the Constitution prohibits compulsory acquisition of any right or interest in property unless the 3 conditions therein are satisfied.: the acquisition must be necessary, justify consequential hardship and there must be prompt and full compensation thereof.
The court found that the constitution does not countenance taking of possession of property without payment of prompt compensation and the appellants cannot assert a right to evict the respondents without compensation.
The court held that the respondents were entitled to compensation and interdicted the appellants from demolishing the developments on the land.
The matter dealt with an application by the applicants against the respondent’s decision to remove them from and refuse them permission to sell their goods. The applicants were street vendors along the Kingsway Street. The 1st respondent had ordered them to relocate, which the applicants refused as the conditions were unfavourable. As a result, the applicants were removed. The applicants argued that in terms of s 5 of the Constitution, by forcing them to relocate their right to life was infringed as it denied their basic means of a livelihood.
The court considered whether the applicants’ removal from the Kingsway Street, was a violation of their right to life. The court found that “life” can be defined as a mammalian biological existence, and in a wider sense, it can be defined as the deprivation of human life itself. In this instance, the court held that the opportunity to trade should be viewed and weighed against other competing interests and values.
The court observed that, trading as a street vendor was a deliberate choice and not the only alternative to a living. Thus, the interests and values of livelihood were outweighed. In conclusion, the court found that to include the right to trade as one’s livelihood in the constitutional right to life would lead to absurd results. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
The matter dealt with a claim by the appellants for an equal portion of shares in the 2nd respondent (a company).
The background to the case is that the 1st applicant and 1st respondent entered into an agreement to pursue a joint mining venture. The parties signed an MOU which stated that they would hold shares in the 2nd respondent. The applicants contended that the MOU implied that they would hold 50 per cent shares in the 2nd respondent.
The court considered the interpretation of the words in the MOU. The court gave the words their ordinary and natural meaning. It was concluded that in the absence of the usual qualifying or quantifying words, the natural and proper conclusion was that, at the time of signing the M0U, the 1st applicant and 1st respondent had not agreed as to the exact percentages of their respective holdings.
The court dismissed the application with costs to the respondents.
This was an appeal against the order of the High Court that required the appellant to pay M52 900.00 to the respondent. This money was received by the appellant from the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority as compensation for the expropriation of land allotted to the respondent by his widowed mother.
The appellant and respondent, a nephew and uncle, occupied two adjacent properties. These properties were inherited by the appellant’s father and the respondent from their widowed mother in 1964. The court considered firstly, whether the respondent’s mother had a right at law to allocate the land to the appellant’s father and the respondent. Secondly, the court considered whether payment of the compensation ought to have been allocated to the parties in accordance with the portions of land that they occupied.
The court found that there was nothing in law, whether customary law or common law, prohibiting the widow (the respondent’s mother) from making the allotment that she did as it was designed to ensure that, during her lifetime, her sons exercised her rights in and over the fields. The court also found that although there was evidence to show that both properties were registered under the appellant’s father’s name, it was clear that the respondent was occupier and user of the disputed field since 1964, and was therefore entitled to receive compensation.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an application for an interdict, restraining the respondents and their associates from setting foot near the diamond mine.
The respondents raised several issues, including the material disputes of facts, making the application unsuitable. The correct procedure as the respondents argued, was to proceed through the issuing of summons. The court pointed out that over the years, the court has allowed litigants to proceed by way of action proceedings if facts are not disputed, or if no dispute of fact is foreseeable. The court dealt with the requirements for an interdict and concluded that the applicants met the requirements. The court held that the applicants established a clear right to the mine and the respondents were interfering with such a right. The court also pointed out that there was no clear, alternative right available to the applicants. On the contrary, the respondents had other remedies available in the event that the interdict affected their rights.
The court granted the interdict and restrained the first and second respondents from setting foot at the diamond mine under the administration of the applicant.
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.
This matter dealt with a land dispute which had commenced in the District Court but was transferred to the Land Court by agreement of the parties. At the end of the trial, an application for absolution from the instance (an order to dismiss a claim on the basis that no order can be made) was made. This application, the applicant sought to include an amendment that would introduce new evidence. The respondents argued that the application was an attempt to cover its failure to comply with the rules of court.
The court considered whether the application was properly before it. The court observed that the applicant had not obtained leave of the court for the application nor consent from the other parties to amend and file further evidence. It relied on r 13 of the Land Court Rules, No. 1 of 2010 and stated that even if the applicant had obtained leave or consent, the court could not grant the application for absolution so as to assist the applicant to cure a defect of none compliance with the rules of court.
It was held that the amendments were an abuse of the court process because the applicant was in fact curing the deficiencies in his pleadings after he had closed his case. Further, the court found that there were no exceptional circumstances to allow the application.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs to the respondents.
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to dismiss an application for review of an application for the setting aside of a decision made by the second respondent, the Member of the Executive Committee of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga (the MEC), and upheld on appeal by the first respondent, the Director General, Environmental Management, Mpumalanga, (the DG). The decision in question was to permit the construction of a filling station in White River. The appellant contended that the permission was given contrary to the provisions of the law.
The court observed that all environmental precautions had been taken into account by the scoping report. It found that the land had been rezoned by the local authority from special area to a business area, based on need and desirability. The court held that that the key factors’ in deciding to grant the application in the circumstance were: firstly, that the property had been rezoned from “special” to “business”; secondly, that no potential threatened plant and animal species were recorded during the site investigation; and, that all identified and perceived impacts were satisfactorily dealt with in the scoping report and the recommendations proposed were sufficient to minimize any negative impacts. Since all this were observed. The appellant case was dismissed with cost.
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 court considered a petition brought by the applicants against the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge them with murder.
The petitioners argued that they were employed as rangers in the Wildlife Service and being lawfully armed in the course of their duties, they confronted suspected armed poachers and shot two of them. They contended that the failure to hold an inquest as prescribed by ss 385 and 388 of the Penal Code, before they were charged amounted to a breach of their constitutional rights.
The court considered whether the applicants used their weapons lawfully and in the course of their duties. Further, whether under the circumstances, an inquest was a prerequisite.
The court considered the import of ss 386, 387 or 388 of the Penal Code and found that in the circumstances it was clear that an inquest ought to have taken place. Further, it observed that while the respondent proceeded as if an inquest had been conducted, no inquest, as known in law, was ever conducted and the “inquest” the investigators passed off as having been conducted, had no legal basis.
The court held that the decision to charge the petitioners with the offences of murder violated article 157 (11) of the Constitution and by the same token infringed on the petitioner’s rights under articles 27(1), 47 (1) and 50 (1)(2) of the Constitution
Accordingly, the court allowed the petition and declared the decision of the DPP to charge the applicants a nullity.
The court considered an appeal against the conviction and sentence of the appellant, for the killing of an animal, possession of government trophy and failure to report being in possession of government trophy.
The appellant sought leniency and a lighter sentence on the ground that he had reformed. The respondent opposed the appeal and urged the court to uphold, both the conviction and sentence, and maintained that the evidence by the prosecution’s witnesses established the case against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether at the trial, there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction and sentence of the appellant.
The court found that although the evidence was circumstantial, there was no plausible explanation as to how the appellant came to be in possession of the tusks stolen from the dead elephant. Further that between the discovery of the carcass and arrest of the appellant, there were no intervening factors to weaken the inference of guilt.
The court observed that the appellant was sentenced under the earlier Wildlife Conservation Act, Chapter 376 which had since been repealed. The sentence was more lenient than those introduced by the amended act, thus the sentence was neither excessive, nor wrong. Accordingly, the court held that the appellant had been properly convicted and dismissed the appeal on both sentence and conviction.
The petitioners disputed eviction from the railway reserve. The respondents filed a cross petition arguing that the petitioners were non project affected persons (PAPs) who were illegally squatting in the reserved area.
Firstly, the court determined whether the implementation of the Relocation Action Plan was in compliance with international legal provisions. The court noted that there was no legal framework in Kenya governing adequate housing and forced evictions. The court, therefore applied the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines as a source of international law in the matter, in accordance to art 2 (5) and (6) of the Constitution of Kenya. The court held that the Relocation Action Plan was carried out within the required legal framework.
Secondly, the court determined whether the implementation of the Relocation Action Plan caused a violation of the petitioner’s constitutional rights. The court noted that art 21 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, imposed a fundamental duty of the state and every state organ to observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights. The court found that the affected residents had knowledge of the intended relocation for a period of 9 years, which amounted to adequate notice of the eviction and relocation.
Accordingly, the petition was dismissed. The cross petition succeeded and the court ordered the petitioners whose names did not appear in the list of the PAPs to move out of the railway reserve and allow the second respondent to proceed with the resettlement plan.
The court considered a petition against various statutory bodies and offices, who were responsible for land. The petitioners contended that the land in question had been jointly purchased by their late fathers but they were tricked by the respondents, on various occasions, when their land was acquired forcibly without compensation. Subsequently the respondents declined to issue them with a title, purporting that they had surrendered their lease titles for further subdivisions.
The respondents alleged that the petitioners had no standing to institute proceedings and that this was an abuse of process, as parts of the land had been sold and payment received by the deceased parents.
The court considered whether there had been a violation of the petitioners’ right to property. The court found that the act of the first respondent of surrendering back to the government part of the parcel of land, which was bought by the petitioner’s father, was an act of compulsory acquisition which required compensation. The respondents failed to show that such compensation had been given.
In conclusion, the court upheld all the petitioners’ prayers and ordered that they were entitled to Kshs. 4,132,942,326.49 billion, being fair compensation for the loss of land with costs to the petitioners.
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 against the government’s failure to recognize the petitioner’s right to property and the right to just compensation when it deprived a person of their property. The case involved the construction of a standard gauge railway (SGR) through private land. The petitioner contended that his right to property and just compensation had been violated and that the third respondent had failed to ensure that the appropriate environmental and social impact study of the SGR was undertaken.
The court considered firstly, whether the compulsory land acquisition was carried out in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and secondly, whether the construction of the SGR was in compliance with environmental laws and the Constitution.
The court found that the first respondent had accorded the land owners with the requisite notices and at the enquiry, as required by law, many obliged to the acquisition and were paid. Further, that the petitioner’s reliance on a repealed act was unsupported, and that he had not shown any substantive section of the Land Acquisition Act that was misapplied by the respondents through the process of compulsory acquisition, thus there was no violation of the Constitution.
The court found that an environmental impact assessment had been conducted and that the respondents took into account, all environmental considerations including sustainable development. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed.
The court considered an appeal against a decision in the Environment and Land court, declaring that the respondent had trespassed on the applicant’s premises and that the respondent be ordered to vacate the area and demolish and structures it had erected.
The respondent alleged that it had settled in the area 45 years prior and had inherited the land from his father.
The appellant alleged it had purchased the property in 1994 but had not occupied or used the land. The lower court held that by the time the action was brought in 2008 there was evidence that the respondent had been in occupation for a period of time that would entitle him to raise the defense of limitation, and after the expiration of over 12 years, the appellant was precluded from bringing an action to recover the premises.
The question was whether the respondent had been in possession of the premises for over 12 years as at the time the suit to evict him was instituted in 2008, and whether his possession was averse to that of the appellant?
The court held that the relevant period would be between 1994, the date of registration of the appellant as the proprietor, and 2008, when the suit was filed. It held that the period translated to 14 years which meant the respondent could legitimately base his claim and dealt with the premises as if it was exclusively his. Thus dispossessing the appellant of its right to the land.
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.
The court considered a petition declaring that the violation of Article 42 of the Constitution of Kenya resulted in a denial of the right to a clean and healthy environment, as well as an injunction to have a waste disposal site relocated.
The court found that the main issues for determination were 1) whether the respondents’ actions violated or threatened the petitioners’ right to a clean and healthy environment, and 2) whether they are deserving of the relief sought.
The court found the right to a clean and healthy environment to be a fundamental right and held that the duty to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations is imposed on the State and every person.
The court considered various provisions of the Constitution, wherein it argued that the first respondent had the mandate to establish and maintain sanitary services for the removal of all kinds of refuse and effluent. It was argued that when dealing with the disposal of waste, no person shall operate a waste disposal site without a licence.
It was clear that the respondent did not have the requisite licence and the court found that the first and third respondents violated the petitioners’ right to a clear and healthy environment, but that the second respondent did not.
The petition partly succeeded. The court granted the declaration but refused to grant the injunction to relocate the waste disposal site.
The matter required the Supreme Court’s advisory opinion in line with art 163(6) of the constitution. The reference concerned land administration and management powers of the National Land Commission versus those of the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development.
The main issue for determination was whether the Supreme Court had the jurisdiction to render an advisory opinion- on the powers and functions of the National Land Commission namely, those of the Ministry of Lands, Housing & Urban Development.
The court noted that it proceeded on a case by case basis in determining whether to exercise its advisory opinion jurisdiction. It was held that the instant reference met the admissibility requirement as set out in art 163(6) of the constitution but on condition that the court shall adopt a re-framed set of issues for consideration. However, the court found it premature to render the opinion at that moment and ordered the parties to undertake a constructive engagement towards reconciliation and a harmonious division of responsibility.
Judge Njoki SCJ dissented and held that the majority ruling was against the spirit of art 163 of the Constitution. Mainly because the questions posed were not subject of the court’s advisory opinion since they had no direct correlation with county government.
The plaintiff was claiming outstanding water use charges together with interest from the defendant.
The court determined if sea water can be owned or managed, and if so by which statutory body. The court held that art 260 of the Constitution defined land to include marine waters in the territorial sea and thus disagreed with the defendant’s argument that sea water is not capable of ownership. It was further held that the National Land Commission was the only body empowered to administer and manage the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the sea bed on behalf of the people of Kenya.
The court noted that the Water Act and the Water Resources Management Rules lacked specific provisions that included sea water as a water resource for the purpose of levying charges for the use of sea water. It was therefore held that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to levy charges for use of sea water.
Accordingly, the case was struck out with costs to the plaintiff.