A major case on the environmental and human rights of villagers in Zambia was heard in the English courts over two days this week. The appeal concerns the question of where villagers, suing over the pollution of their water via mining action, may bring their dispute. They want the case heard in the UK while Vedanta, the parent company they are targeting, says the “natural forum” for the matter would be Zambia. If the English Supreme Court gives the go-ahead for the case to be heard in the UK, it will have a major impact on many other environmental cases and be a significant step in the development of environmental law, making it easier to hold international parent companies responsible for the actions of their subsidiaries.
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In a bizarre case, due to be heard in the Namibian courts next week, the country’s defence force is alleged to have taken over the premises of a private shooting club outside the town of Rehoboth just before Christmas. The club says the army changed the locks and warned that the site is now off limits to the public as it is a “military zone” – all of this without notice or warning. The club is fighting back against this military might, by making an application for a spoliation order. Members say unless the dispute is heard urgently, their charitable work in the local community will be decimated and their other club activities will also be halted. The club’s officials claim that the defence force has taken the law into its own hands and that the club’s rights are being violated.
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AT 814 pages, this critically important constitutional court decision was never going to be easy to digest. Five judges, headed by the deputy chief justice, Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo, contributed to its length and they all had a lot to say.
OF all the many pre-election cases heard by Zimbabwe’s courts, only one resulted in a judicial decision that broadened and protected democracy. And even in this case, the outcome was overturned on appeal.
The stand-out case was heard by Judge Joseph Martin Mafusire. In Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe v Zanu-PF he was asked for an interim order to prevent school pupils, teachers, school buses and buildings from being used as though they were resources belonging to the ruling party.