This particular matter involved the interpretation of a section of the Petroleum Products Act, 1977 which gives “any person directly affected by the decision of the Controlling of Petroleum Products” the right to appeal to the minister against such decision. That phrase is used in many statutes challenging government decisions.
The applicants were the holders of site and retail licences for selling retail petroleum products and sought to challenge a decision to approve applications for site and retail licences of a potential competitor.
The Supreme Court of Appeal held that the right to appeal does not arise from nor is it acquired from the Controller’s decision, but from the effect that the Controller’s decision will have on the objector’s interests. The applicants said there was a limited market for fuel in the area and that every sale that the new retailer would make would negatively impact on the sales of their outlets and in all probability lead to loss of jobs. The court said that having regard to all the evidence it was satisfied that the applicants had demonstrated that the Controller’s decision would directly affect their commercial rights and interests as contemplated in the Act and that the sale of petroleum products at their outlets would be negatively and “directly affected”.
Every statute is interpreted in the light of the facts of each case as well as the scheme and purpose of the legislation. In this case the objectives of the Act were the facilitation of an environment which is conducive to efficient and commercially justifiable investment, the creation of employment opportunities, and the development of viable small businesses in the petroleum sector. The effect on the sales of existing retailers was therefore sufficient to give a right of appeal.
[Gensinger and Neave CC v Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy [2024] ZASCA 49 (15 April 2024)]