This appeal is from a judgment of Weinkove AJ sitting as a single judge at first instance. It was brought with the leave of the learned acting judge.
The history is relatively complex, with a small host of characters having been involved in various roles in the three applications that came up for hearing together in the court of first instance. The description of the facts will be easier to follow if I refer to the personalities that were involved by their names or positions, rather than by their respective roles as parties cited in the appeal. When convenient, the individually cited functionaries of the Department of Mineral Resources (the minister, the deputy director-general and the regional manager (Western Cape), respectively) will be referred to collectively as ‘the Department’ or ‘the government parties’.
The issue centrally in contention in the litigation was how the competition between the appellant, Shanduka Resources (Pty) Ltd (Shanduka), and the first respondent, Western Cape Nickel Mining (Pty) Ltd (WC Nickel), for recognition as the first-in-time applicant for prospecting rights in respect of nickel ore and various other minerals over Portion 2 of the farm Nuwefontein 6, Van Rhynsdorp, Western Cape should be determined. There was some dispute as to whether WC Nickel had effectively lodged an application, but both companies had been advised by the regional manager that their respective applications could not be accepted because the rights were already held by Hondekloof Nickel (Pty) Ltd (the fifth respondent, hereinafter referred to simply as ‘Hondekloof’).