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 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.
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.
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.
The appellants – employees of NECTA, a state-affiliated corporate entity – were aggrieved after being transferred by order of the respondent, the Permanent Secretary, to various other institutions under the control of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. Unsuccessful in their review application at the High Court, the appellants contended on appeal that the respondent’s decision was made ultra vires. They argued further that it had violated the requirements of natural justice by failing to provide them with an opportunity to be heard prior to its making.
The appellate court found that the relevant provisions of the Public Service Act (‘the act’) empower the Chief Secretary to facilitate ‘labour mobility’ amongst certain state-affiliated employers, of which NECTA was one. The court held further that a purposive interpretation of section 8 of the act recognised the transfer of employees in the contemplated manner as an essential aspect of ‘labour mobility’. The act enlists the Permanent Secretary as the principal assistant to the Chief Secretary in relation to the administration of public service, meaning that the delegation of power unto it, and subsequent exercise thereof, was duly authorised by law.
Because the appellants’ employment benefits had not been impacted by the decision, and the proceedings had not been disciplinary in nature, the respondent was not lawfully required to give the appellants an opportunity to be heard. Therefore, no rules of natural justice had been breached.
The appeal was dismissed and the parties ordered to bear their own costs.
The appellants had been dismissed from their employment by the respondent, the Institute of Social Work, following their alleged participation in an unprotected strike. The matter was heard by the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA), and then the High Court, to outcomes with which both parties were aggrieved. On appeal, the litigants lodged multiple grounds for consideration (the respondent cross-appealing), which the appellate court condensed into three main issues.
First, the respondents argued that the appeal by the second to twenty-first appellants was incompetent because they did not file a case before the CMA. The respondents argued that the appellants ought to have filed an application for a representative suit under order VIII rule 7 of the Civil Procedure Code. However, the court found that there are specific provisions under the labour laws which are instructive regarding labour disputes involving several employees. The court highlighted section 86(1) of the Employment and Labour Relations Act (ELR), as well as rules 5(2), 5(3) and 12(1) of the Mediation Rules and found that the appellants had acted in accordance therewith.
Secondly, that the appellants were not given clear charges for their misconduct and were denied an opportunity to be heard during the disciplinary proceedings was a clear violation of the constitutional principle of natural justice. The termination was therefore void and of no legal effect.
Lastly, because no fair or valid reason in terms of the labour law had been clearly stated to the employees for their termination, this meant that it was unfair under section 37(2) of the ELR, as well as contrary to rule 8(1)(c) and (d) of the ELR Code of Good Practice Rules.
The appeal was upheld with the court setting aside the decisions of the CMA and the High Court. The appellants were granted leave to institute proceedings against the respondent before the CMA de novo (afresh) so as to determine their rights. Each party was ordered to bear their own costs.