The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
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-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The issue was whether an arbitrator has power to amend a contract.
The applicant was challenging an arbitral decision arguing that the composition of the arbitration tribunal and the award itself were wrong. It argued that the arbitrator dealt with an issue which was not contemplated by the parties and that he amended the subject contract in contravention of clause 10 of the contract. The applicant further alleged that the conduct of the arbitrator showed bias in favor of the respondents.
The respondent on the other hand argued that there was no evidence to show that the arbitrator was partial. They further contended that there was no contravention of clause 10 because the amendments were made in terms of clause 13 of contract.
In deciding the case, the court held that amendments to the contract cannot be made without consensus of each party. It ruled that an amendment in terms of clause 13 required an arbitrator appointed in accordance with that provision. It further held that the clause 10.2 of the contract only allowed an amendment by agreement in writing by both parties which was not the case in the matter before the court.
On allegations of partiality of the arbitrator, the court found that communication between the applicant and respondent shows likelihood of bias. The court further ruled that the composition of the tribunal was not in accordance with the contract. All these amounted to breach of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The arbitration award was set aside.
Plaintiff instituted proceedings for breach of contract, special damages, and general damages. Defendant denied any breach took place, and contended that the dispute ought to have been referred to an arbitrator. Defendant also instituted a counterclaim for breach of contract.
The defendant approached the plaintiff for assistance in carrying out a contract with BCEG (Rwanda), and entered into a memorandum of understanding that the profits after expenses would be divided. The defendant failed to pay plaintiff an outstanding amount of monies, or for expenses incurred.
The issues for determination were whether the matter ought to have been referred to arbitration; whether the defendant breached the contract; and the remedies available to the parties.
Regarding issue one, the court stated that the matter could only be referred to arbitration in terms of the parties’ agreement if any of the parties applied to court for arbitration. Though an arbitration clause existed, no application was made to refer the matter to arbitration. The court could not invoke its inherent jurisdiction to refer the matter to arbitration without an application being made.
As regards issue two, the court found that the plaintiff proved that the defendant breached the contract. The defendant failed to deal specifically with the claims of the plaintiff, and instead provided blanket denials which the court held to be insufficient to disprove the plaintiff’s claims.
As regards the remedies available to the parties, the plaintiff failed to prove liability for special damages, but was entitled to general damages.