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 appellant claimed that a letter in dispute was not a contract but a proposal which outlined the services the respondent intended to render and the billing details. The court considered whether the statement of claim by the respondent disclosed a reasonable cause of action based on a binding contract. The other issue was whether the costs granted in the lower court were justifiable.
The court held that there must be a cause of action cognizable in law. In that light, an action founded on a contract must disclose the cause of action and court must restrict itself to the averments in the statement of claim. The court also held that costs follow the events and are compensatory in the court's discretion.
The court did not determine the existence of the contract because a valid and enforceable contract is a substantive issue that should be determined at trial. The court also found that since the requisite factual elements were present in the statement of claim, a cause of action existed despite weaknesses and unlikelihood of success of the case. The court also found that the trial court awarded the costs reasonably and by the law.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal.
Two parties both claimed ownership to land, both believing they were first to cultivate the land. The court considered an appeal from a judgment that held neither the appellants or respondents were entitled to land in dispute. When the matter was appealed, it was remitted back to the trial court. There was a dispute over the lower court’s decision to remit the case to the trial court to consider the evidence.
The court held that the court has no power to grant a party relief that was not pleaded. However, an appellate court has the inherent power to order a retrial or remittance of a case for whatever purposes, even if this was not pleaded. In this case however, the court held that the previous appellate court was wrong to remit the case back because the trial court had already evaluated the evidence.
The court emphasised that the court must not absolve itself of its duty to carefully evaluate evidence and determine a matter on its merits. The burden of proof lies on the person who alleges, and he must lead credible and cogent evidence to support his claim.
The court held that the applicant had not proven their claim to the land and the respondent, who led credible and cogent evidence about the ownership of the land, was entitled to the property in question.
In this case two parties claimed a right to land and had evidence to prove their ownership. The court considered a cross-appeal from a judgment that held neither were entitled to land. The court below relied on a traditional oath and made concurrent findings of fact.
A traditional oath is a statement of fact that is made in writing and sworn to be the truth which are used in customary and Islamic law. The court held that the trial court could not rely on the traditional oath as this was not the only basis upon which the title to land could be determined. Because the court was not exercising jurisdiction over Islamic law, they could not rely on the oath as the basis for determining who owned the land when neither party proves their case.
An appellate court will not ordinarily interfere with the findings of the trial court unless it is shown that that finding was not supported by evidence or reached by the wrong consideration of evidence or incorrect application of legal principles.
Further, appellate courts should not readily set aside the concurrent findings of the courts unless it is clear that such finding, was made on an erroneous or perverse basis. Where there are concurrent findings of facts sufficient evidence on record in support, the court cannot set aside the findings unless the findings are found to be perverse or are not supported by evidence or were reached as a result of wrong application of a principle of law or of procedure.
The court also dismissed the findings of the trial court relating to the concurrent findings.
The court considered an application in a matter that dealt with a judgment that omitted counsel’s name. The court was asked to review and/or vary and/or annulling part of the Judgment to reflect the change. The court had the inherent power to correct a slip in its judgment. However, the slip rule can never be used by a party to seek clarity over a judgment but only correct minor errors.
Where counsel does appear and argue for the appellant, their names should not appear on the judgment. Further, only the names of counsel and not the parties are listed on the judgment. Once a court has delivered its decision on a matter, it ceases to be seized of the cases (functus officio), and it cannot re-open it for any purpose whatsoever except in appropriate and exceptional cases such as when judgment
(a) was obtained by fraud or deceit;
(b) was a nullity;
(c) was given under a mistaken belief that the parties consented to it;
(d) was given in the absence of jurisdiction;
(e) the proceedings adopted was such as to deprive the decision or judgment of the character of a legitimate adjudication; or
(f) was rendered with fundamental irregularity.
A court can however review a judgment to give effect to its meaning, correct clerical errors or accidental slips or omissions.
The court rejected the application to review or vary the judgment because it did not meet the criteria above but permitted the application to delete phrases that it was made in the absence of counsel and deleted reference to parties from appearances.
The court dealt with an application for an extension of time to appeal. The court reiterated the test that must be satisfied for an application for extension of time. The applicant must file an affidavit showing good and substantial reasons for the failure to appeal within time; and propose grounds of appeal that good cause why the appeal should be heard. The court held that the applicant had shown both good and substantial reasons as to why he failed to file appeal with the correct framework and proposed adequate grounds for appeal.
This was an appeal of the decision of a lower court to grant the respondents leave to amend their writ of summons in terms of substituting the 1st to the 12th plaintiffs with their personal representatives and guardians. The writ was taken out in the names of the deceased victims of the fire incident occasioned by the appellant. The appellant, via a notice of preliminary objection challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the application having been brought by deceased persons. This preliminary objection was not dealt with by the lower court in its decision.
The court held that the lower court committed a serious error when it did not consider a preliminary objection which challenged the jurisdiction of the court. A court must always establish that it has jurisdiction before it deals with any matter such as the merits of an amendment.
The court further held that the law recognizes two categories of persons who can sue and be sued. They are natural persons with life, mind and brain; and other bodies or institutions having juristic personality.
Accordingly, a dead person ceases to have legal personality and can neither sue nor be sued.
Therefore if the original writ of summons and initiating process are void, the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain or enter judgment in the matter. Based on the above principles, the court upheld the appeal and struct out the claim for want of jurisdiction.
This case concerns liability for damage caused to a vessel.
The court considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction over the second appellant which was only served indirectly. The court held that where a party does not object to any irregularity or invalidity in the service of process on him before
The trial court, he waives his right. In this case the second appellant, then defendant, did not object. Consequently, the court found that the trial court did indeed have jurisdiction.
The second ground of appeal was declared incompetent.
The court also considered whether the trial court had taken into account all evidence. It held that where a trial court unquestionably evaluates the evidence adduced and appraises the facts, it is not the business of the appellate court to substitute it is own view. The court was satisfied that the trial court took all evidence into account, although it was not explicitly referred to in the judgement. Consequently, the court decided against the appellants.
The court finally considered whether the negligence precludes the right to limit liability. It held that the ship master is the alter ego of the vessel on behalf of the owner. Consequently, the owner, together with the other appellants, was held jointly and severally liable.
The appeal was dismissed.
The issue was whether a claimant is allowed by court rules to file witness statements and other documents in reply to a defendant’s defense to a claim.
The dispute emanated from a lower court’s decision to strike out the appellant’s reply to the respondents’ defense. The reply was struck out on the basis that it contained a written statement on oath and documents which was regarded as an amendment of the pleadings.
The appellant was challenging the decision to strike out on the grounds that the court rules impliedly provides for further documents and statements in reply to a defendants’ defense. On the other hand, the respondents opposed the appeal on the ground that the court rules do not provide for a reply to be accompanied with a witness statement and any other document.
In deciding the matter, the court held that order 18 of the High Court rules which deals with a reply to a statement of defense does not require that any document or statement shall be accompany such reply. It further ruled that where the words in a statute are clear and unambiguous, they ought to be accorded their simple grammatical interpretation. The appeal was thus dismissed.
The dispute emanated from an agreement between the appellant and the respondents to clear a debt owed to the appellant by the respondents. The agreement provided for reduction of the debt on the grounds that the respondents pay an initial payment of 500 million and the balance before the exit of Central Bank examiners who had who had come to inspect the appellant bank. After payment of all debt, the appellant required the respondents to pay R5.5 billion alleging that it did not pay the balance as agreed.
The respondents approached the court and an order that parties should maintain status quo until the matter was resolved was granted. The appellant then filed a petition to wind up the respondents which prompted the respondents to approach the court seeking a committal order arguing that the appellant was in contempt of court. This was opposed by a preliminary objection seeking to strike out the committal order. The court granted the objection while pointing out that it had no jurisdiction to decide on the matter.
The appellant appealed the decision to strike out citing lack of jurisdiction of the trial judge and that the judge did not consider all issues raised by appellants and that it should have dismissed not strike out the committal order.
The held that the trial judge correctly dealt with the issue and that since he had no jurisdiction, it was not necessary for him to consider issues regarding the merits of the case and dismissed the appeal.
The issue was whether the trial judge’s decision was affected by the lapse of time (19 months) between the adoption of written addresses and the delivery of judgment. The dispute emanated from the dismissal of the respondent as the principal assistant registrar of the appellant college. The respondent successfully challenged the dismissal and the lower court awarded him damages amounting to approximately 1.6 million Naira together with reinstatement.
The appellant challenged the lower court’s ruling on the grounds that due to the time lapse between the hearing of evidence and delivery of judgement the trial judge was not able to make proper judgement. The appellants further argued that the s 294(1) Constitution requires that judgement must be delivered in 3 months.
The court pointed out that section 294(5) of the Constitution also provides that delay in the delivery of judgment does not lead to a judgment being vitiated. The delay must occasion a miscarriage of justice to result in such a conclusion.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the errors made by the trial judge shows that he was no longer in position to properly appraise the evidence. This resulted in the miscarriage of justice and the appeal was upheld.
The issue determined by the courts was whether the appellant was an interested party in the suit and whether the firstand second respondent were owners of the property in dispute.
The dispute emanated from the decision of the lower court to award a certificate of occupancy to the respondents after their original certificate was revoked. When their original certificate of occupancy was revoked the land was allocated to the appellant who had built a shopping mall. The appellant challenged the decision to award the occupancy certificate to the respondents. It argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter because of non-joinder of all parties whose rights were affected by the court’s decision. The appellant further claimed that their right to fair hearing was infringed.
The respondents argued that the revocation of the original occupancy certificate was null and void because it was in breach of the Land Act. They contended that they could not join the appellants because they did not know of their existence and they were original owners of the land.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the respondents knew of the existence of the appellant and had a legal duty to join the appellant in the suit so that they can be given an opportunity to be heard. It ruled that the court had no jurisdiction to make orders that bind a party who was not given an opportunity to be heard. The appeal was thus upheld.
The appeal was against a garnishee order attaching a sum of approximately N97 million belonging to the appellant granted by the lower court. The appeal was based on the claim that the garnishee order was made without hearing the appellants’ earlier motion for a of stay execution. This, the appellants argued, was a violation of their right to a fair trial.
The respondent raised a preliminary objection that the appellant had no standing because it was judgement debtor, not the garnishee. It further argued that the appellants had not obtained leave to appeal.
The appellants responded by pointing out that they were respondents to the garnishee application, and that the funds that were to be attached belonged to them. Thus, they had locus standi (the standing and right to file this appeal).
The court held that it is only the garnishee that can appeal an order made by the court. It ruled that garnishee proceedings are strictly between the creditor and the garnishee. It found that the appellant lacked locus standi to file the appeal and the appeal was dismissed.
The court considered whether the failure to omit the court name in a notice of motion and error in arrangement of parties invalidated the application.
The court held that a notice of appeal is the foundation and any defect to it renders the whole appeal incompetent. In that regard, to validly invoke the jurisdiction of a Court of Appeal, it must be shown that the decision appealed against arose from the courts listed in s 240 of the Constitution.
The court found that the particulars of the claim did not invoke the jurisdiction of the court of appeal which is a material defect. Moreso, cannot be cured by an amendment. Therefore, the court was not able to grant the reliefs claimed.
The court accordingly dismissed the application.
The court considered whether the State High Court had jurisdiction to entertain a matter about mines and minerals.
The court held that according to s 251(1)(n) of the Constitution as amended, the Federal High Court had jurisdiction about mining operations.
The court found that the statement of claim showed that the cause of action accrued in 1996; therefore, the law that was in existence at that time is applicable. Further, the court found that the construction, operation and maintenance of an oil pipeline by a holder of oil prospecting license is an act of mining operations. The facts of the case therefore fell within s 230(1)(0) of the 1979 Constitution. The trial court lacked jurisdiction.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal.
The court considered three issues. Firstly, how a court should exercise its discretion in regulating a motion meant to regularise the process and the other meant to terminate the process. Secondly, whether the respondents were necessary parties to the suit. Lastly, whether the trial court was correct in awarding costs.
The court held that the practice was to give priority to hearing a motion set to regularise a process if the motion succeeds the other motions seeking to terminate the proceedings will be withdrawn. The court also held that respondents are necessary to a suit if they would be directly or financially affected by the outcome of the judgement of the case. Also, the court held that courts have absolute discretion to either award or refuse costs.
The court found that the trial judge instead of taking the motion for joinder and amendment, preliminary objections of the first and second respondent based on jurisdiction were taken which were meant to terminate the points in limine. The court also found that the respondents were necessary parties because they are not only interested in the subject matter of the proceedings, but they constitute those who in their absence the proceedings could not be fairly dealt with. The court found that the costs awarded were not exceptionally high or punitive to conclude that the court's discretion was not in the interest of justice.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal.
The court considered whether the joining of the fourth to the sixth respondent constituted an abuse of court process which had an interest in the land in dispute.
The court held that the effect of the High Court rules was that substantial justice is achieved if the parties and trial judges achieve just, efficient and speedy dispensation of justice.
The court found that the joinder of the fourth to sixth respondents to contest title to the land did not constitute an abuse of court process. They were entitled in law to file a statement of defence or counterclaim against the appellants.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal with costs.
The court considered whether the appellants were necessary parties in the suit, and what is the procedure to determine a reasonable cause of action.
The court held that a necessary party is one who is bound by the result of an action. Further held that cause of action is the facts which when proved entitle a plaintiff to a remedy against the defendant and the procedure thereof is showing that the statement of claim contained facts which if proved plaintiffs would succeed.
The court found that the appellants had made a premature application which supported the respondent’s contention that there is a reasonable cause of action, and that the second appellant is a necessary party to the proceedings.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and costs were awarded to the respondent.
Appeals – evidence before trial judge leading to draw inferences and conclusions on the facts of the case
In this case, the respondent had filed an application for the enforcement of a judgment by means of garnishee proceedings. The court then granted an order of garnishee nisi, which the appellants then filed an affidavit to show cause. The matter was heard and the court made the garnishee order absolute. This case illustrates effect of a null judgment.
The court considered whether the High Court erred in granting the garnishee orders absolute. The court considered the direct effect of the judgment that had been made by the same court. The court had found that the judgment of the court below was incompetent and therefore a nullity.
The court held that the law was settled that, ‘out of nullity nothing worth anything or something can emerge or be predicated’. The court held that a null judgment though it existed as a fact, was devoid of any legal consequences. It was as if the judgment did not exist.
Therefore, the court concluded that the garnishee orders absolute made by the court below had automatically become nullity as well and were liable to be set aside ex debito justitiae (as of right).
The court upheld the appeal and wholly set aside the garnishee orders absolute.
The applicant in this application sought for an order staying the execution of the
judgment of the court of appeal until the determination of the appeal to this court, and
that costs of the application be provided for.
The applicant approached the court to set aside the legal opinion and report of the first and second respondents’ respectively and in turn, the respondents challenged the validity of the application before the court.
The court considered whether the applicant was properly incorporated and whether it had locus standi to bring a petition before the court.
It was held that the applicant indeed did not have locus standi to petition the court to challenge the findings of the respondents due to not being properly incorporated.
The court found that the merger between the entities that formed the applicant was in contravention of both the Constitution and legislation regulating companies. The court held that the Constitution was violated on two occasions. Firstly, when an agreement was entered into with an entity controlled by the government without the approval of the Attorney-General. Secondly, when the entity controlled by the government decided to hold a minority shareholding in the company that assisted in incorporating the applicant, which had the effect of parliament not having control of the funds as required. Legislation regulating companies was not complied with since the requirement for incorporating a private company was not observed.
As a result, the preliminary objection raised by the respondents succeeded. The applicant did not exist in law thus it could not sue or be sued. No costs ordered as the applicant does not exist.
The court considered whether the appellant has a right in law to lodge the appeal.
The court held that there is no right of appeal against a decision of a court of competent jurisdiction unless that right is expressly provided for by statute. Further, an application brought to the High Court in terms of s 16(6) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act is final and not subject to appeal.
The court found that the facts of the subject of the preliminary objection to the arbitrator's decision, the application by the respondent to the high court and the decision thereof fall within the ambit of s 16 of the act, therefore there is no right of appeal against the decision of the high court. Further, even under s 34 of the act there is no right of appeal against the decision of the high court. Further, there was no right to appeal in the high court because respondent did not comply with time limits, thus nullifying the order.
Accordingly, the court found that the appellant had no right of appeal, parties were ordered to pay their own costs. Further, the appellant as the successful party in the arbitration entitled to costs of the high court and arbitrator.
The case was an application seeking to revive a consent judgment set aside by the registrar of the court.
The dispute emanated from an application by the respondent seeking an order to nullify registration of property in the name of the defendants (who are now applicants). The order was granted under an ex parte application because the respondents failed to respond to the suit. The respondents tried without success to appeal the judgment.
The respondents then filed a notice of appeal to the Appeal Court seeking to appeal against the order of the High Court dismissing the application. They also requested an interim order for stay of execution. The applicant (who is now the respondent) objected to the appeal arguing that it was late which was confirmed by the registrar. The respondents referred the matter to a single judge and pending the determination by the judge, the parties entered into a consent judgment which was endorsed by the registrar. The registrar later set aside the consent judgment which the applicants are now seeking to revive.
In deciding the case, the court held that there was no appeal before the single judge because the applicants filed the appeal late. The court ruled that the registrar has no jurisdiction to hear and dispose an appeal. It found that the registrar erred when he entered a consent judgment on a matter which was on appeal before a court. It further ruled that the consent judgment was null and void thus it cannot be revived.
Two applications where lodged by both parties. The first application sought the rejection of a lodged case on the ground that the defendant in the suit, described as ‘the board,’ was a non-existing person, with no capacity to sue or be sued. Immediately thereafter, the applicant lodged the second application where he sought leave to amend the initial suit by adding a Pastor Kayanja as a party to the suit, in addition to the board.
In its judgement this court held that the board did not exist in law. The application to add Kayanja was held to be an attempt to substitute a non-existing defendant and thus in reality there was no valid plaint in the suit. The reason being that a suit in the names of a wrong plaintiff or defendant cannot be cured by amendment (as the applicant attempted to).
Hence, the first application succeeded, and the second application was dismissed.
This was an application for an order that a writ of
mandamus doth issue ordering the Treasury
Officer of Accounts to pay the applicants.
When the application came up for hearing, learned
counsel for the respondent, raised an objection.
She argued that under rule 5 (1) of S. I. 11/2007,
an application for judicial review should be made in
a period of three months from the time when the
decision was made. According to her, the
impugned decision was made many years ago, so
the application is out of time.
The plaintiff applied to the court to enter judgment on admission for the plaintiff because the defendant materially admitted all the facts; and that the court should only be addressed on the issue of general damages and costs.
The court concluded that since the defendant in this case agreed to and admitted all the material facts in the plaintiff’s claim, there remained no other triable issues for the court to consider.
A ‘triable issue’ was defined as an issue that only arises when a material proposition of law or fact is affirmed by the one party and denied by the other; however the parties are bound by their pleadings and cannot be allowed to depart from them.
The court held that an admission has to be clear and unambiguous and must state precisely what is being admitted. Once an admission of facts is made, court may upon application make such order or file such judgment.
It is against this backdrop that the judgment on admission was entered.
The matter dealt with an application for foreclosure and sale of mortgaged property as a result of failure to make loan repayments by defendant.
The main issue was whether the plaintiff could exercise its right to foreclose the property. The court cited s 8(1) of the Mortgage Act that allows one to redeem the property at any time of breach and or to get a court order effecting the redemption. Reference to How v Vigures was also made regarding the triggers for foreclosure proceedings as being when due payment has not been made on date for redemption (default) or when there is a breach of any terms of the mortgage.
The court established that as the defendant had not complied with the terms of the credit facility agreement by not paying the agreed monthly instalments for a period of two years despite repeated demands, the exercise of the right to foreclosure was held to be fit and proper.
The court therefore concluded that the plaintiff could exercise the right to foreclose and accordingly allowed the application.