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.
This case concerns a dispute about land. The applicant sought an order of the Supreme Court to quash a mandamus order granted by the High Court. The applicant argued that the order made by the High Court breached natural justice because he was not served with the application in which the order was made. The Supreme Court held that the audi alteram patem rule, which requires a person to be heard in proceedings wherein a relief is sought that will affect him, must be followed in all circumstances. The evidence, in this case, showed that the applicant was not served, constituting a breach of the audi alteram patem rule. Given this breach of natural justice, the Supreme Court upheld the appeal and quashed the lower court’s order.
The respondent/plaintiff had sued the appellant/defendant for a liquidated debt following its default in payment and successfully applied for the matter to be placed on the undefended list. There it was heard exclusively on the papers to the respondent/plaintiff’s success. Two issues emerged on appeal: whether the trial court’s judgment contradicted the evidence, and whether the appellant’s notice of intention to defend disclosed a defence on the merits of the case, thereby justifying the matter’s transfer to the general cause list.
The appellate court held in favour of the respondents on both issues, finding first that the court had been thorough in its analysis of the evidence before it, and had crafted a reasoned order reflecting this.
The judge elucidated the purpose of the undefended list as a vehicle for swift justice where a defendant has no credible case. This was one such instance; the court found that the appellant had failed to raise a triable issue warranting the matter’s transfer to the general cause list. The appellant’s allegations of fraud did not conform to the recognised rules for establishing such a claim and were found lack any substance.
The appellant unsuccessfully invoked s 36(1) of the Constitution, contending that its right to a fair hearing had been breached through its being deprived of a comprehensive trial. The court affirmed the lawful function of the undefended list, emphasising that parties are given equal opportunities to be heard via the papers. Where a defendant was unable to raise a triable issue against the plaintiff’s claim, it could not resort to arguing that audi alterem partem had been flouted.
The appeal was dismissed.
Aggrieved by a High Court decision concerning a dispute with the respondent, the applicant sought leave to escalate the matter to the Court of Appeal. The High Court summarily rejected the application without notice to the parties and prior to the set-down date of the hearing.
The appellate court was wholly convinced by the applicant’s main contention: that the High Court judgment was impugnable because the parties had not yet been heard at the time it was given. Outlining the basic tenets of the audi alterem partem principle, the court affirmed that courts are obligated to afford the parties a full hearing before determining the disputed matter on merit.
The appellate court invoked its revisional powers under section 4(3) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, setting aside the High Court’s decision and directing it to rehear the application.