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 matter stems from an alleged breach of an agreement of refund by the respondent against the applicant. The agreement in question arose from a breach of the shipping contract by the applicant resulting in the respondent incurring a penalty from Tanzania Revenue Authority.
The main issue is whether the court could order for the joinder of the shipper and agent as defendants even when the applicant does not intend to sue them. The court began by clarifying that it has unlimited powers to join any party as a defendant if it is necessary to enable the court to effectually and completely adjudicate upon and settle all the relevant questions in suit. However, this power is exercised under the guidance of the dominus litis principle that grants the plaintiff the power to decide whom to sue.
In its reasoning, the court could not find a reason why the joinder was necessary as the dispute in question arose from a communication in which only the applicant and respondent were privy. Furthermore, the court heeded the respondent’s contention that as master of her own case she should not be compelled to sue a person she feels she has no claim. The court thus rejected the application to join the shipper and agent as co-defendant.
The applicant applied to set aside an arbitration award made in 2015. It was argued that the arbitrator misconducted herself when she amended the award; when she awarded nominal charges to the second respondent; and gave no reasons for ordering costs against the applicant, who was successful at the arbitration.
An arbitration award may be set aside on the grounds of an error on the face of it when reasons given for the award are based upon a legal proposition that is erroneous. It was found that the arbitrator’s reasons for making the award were erroneous and contrary to the Civil Procedure Code when awarding costs against the winning party. No reasons were provided for apportioning the costs, and for heavily weighting the costs against the winning party.
A court may also set aside an award if it is bad on its face for involving an apparent error in fact or law, or it has not complied with the requirements of finality and certainty. The award was bad on its face as it granted costs based on an apparent error of law by apportioning greater costs to the winning party. It is trite law that the losing party should bear the costs of a matter to compensate the successful party for expenses incurred for having to vindicate their rights.
The court held that there was good cause to remit the part of the award on apportionment of costs for reconsideration by the arbitrator.
This case concerns the unauthorized sale of company shares the by stock brokers.
The Court of Appeal determined whether the lower court erred in its decision to find the appellants liable for the unauthorized and illegal sale of the respondent’s shares. The court held that evaluating evidence is primarily the role of the trial court and that the appellate court will only interfere where there is clear evidence that the lower court failed to evaluate the evidence properly. The court was not satisfied, however, that such evidence was presented. It therefore confirmed the lower court’s decision.
The court also considered whether the lower court correctly attributed costs. It held that decisions as to costs follow the overall decision and found that, in this case, the lower court’s decision regarding costs was reasonable and in accordance with the law. It, therefore, also dismissed this ground for appeal and the entire 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 appellant sought to overturn a taxation ruling of the Deputy Registrar, contending that the latter had erred in fact and law in coming to its decision. The order prohibited the appellant from charging its client certain fees for services rendered over and above the initial instruction costs.
The Registrar had found that the appellant was estopped from claiming the fees due to the allegedly misleading way it had conducted itself in respect of the client regarding the anticipated bill of costs. The appellate court upheld the challenge, finding that the provisions of the Advocates Act expressly regulated the exclusion of bills of costs, thereby limiting – in terms of s 14 of the Judicature Act – the High Court’s discretion to apply principles of equitability when adjudicating disputes of this nature.
Both legislation and case law affirmed the appellant’s right to taxation of its bill of costs against the respondent, as it had met the relevant statutory requirements.
The issues before the court were whether the registrar erred in law when he did not exercise his jurisdiction to refer the matter to a judge for a final disposal of issues he had found as contentious in his ruling; whether the learned registrar erred in law when he unilaterally dismissed the matter without determining the contentious issues raised therein and whether it is in the interest of justice that the appellant is granted leave to tax its Advocate-Client Bill of Costs.
The court stated that the claims did not arise out of a single transaction and the best way forward for the applicant was to file an action (civil suit) to recover these various claims.
The court came to the conclusion that the application was for recovery of costs and the registrar had no jurisdiction to entertain a dispute between advocate and client as to whether costs or fees were due. Secondly it is alleged that the bill is illegal or arises from an illegal contract. The court upheld the registrar’s decision not to entertain the bill and refer the parties to a suit with the only question remaining of whether he ought to have referred the parties to the judge for trial of the suit. The court reiterated that the registrar reached the right conclusion.
The matter of recovery of costs was contentious and the registrar had no jurisdiction to entertain it.
The court dismissed the appeal.
The appellant sought a declaration against the respondent that the Constitutional Court erred in refusing to award the appellant costs as a successful party and that it also based that refusal to award costs on incorrect principles.
The reference on taxation can be made to the Supreme Court on two grounds namely; on a matter of law or principle or on the ground that the bill of costs as taxed is in all circumstances manifestly excessive or manifestly inadequate.
The court held that there was no principle of law to the effect that the decision of the taxing officer must be subjected to the application of a ‘magic formula’ which when applied would result in a precise figure being arrived at in an almost automatic manner. Every case must be decided on its own merits and its peculiar circumstances, such as prolixity of the case in its preparation and any other peculiar complications in its presentation to the court.
The court held that, due to the difference in cases, uniformity and consistency may at times be defeated. Moreover, other factors ought to be considered by the taxing master. The fund or person bearing the costs must be considered before setting the award. A balance has to be struck between keeping the costs of litigation as reasonable as possible so as not to restrict access to court to only the wealthy, and the need to allow reasonable level of remuneration of advocates to attract worthy recruits to the profession.
In the result, the application was upheld.
The appellant appealed against a taxing officer’s order awarding the second respondent costs of 1, 900, 739/= contending that the instruction fee awarded was based on an incorrect value of the suit. The respondents’ counsel raised preliminary objections inter alia that couldn’t be permitted to raise a new point of law that was not argued in the lower court.
The respondents’ former employees of the applicant filed a suit in the
High Court against the applicant for recovery of gratuity, insurance
and or pension money with arrears, and in the alternative prayed for
a declaration that they were entitled to pension insurance money
under the applicant's existing scheme. They also prayed for general
damages, interest and costs. The High Court entered judgment for
them. The applicant successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal
which set aside the High Court judgment and awarded costs in both
courts to the applicant. The applicant brought this appeal for security
of costs taxed and awarded.
The 3 rd respondent instituted in the High Court an election petition against Rose
the 1 st and 2 nd Respondent. The High Court dismissed the petition and awarded
costs against the petitioner, the 3 rd Respondent. She instructed the 1 st and 2 nd
appellant to appeal against the decision of the High Court. There was a mess in
the process of filing or attempting to institute the Notice of Appeal and effecting
service of the same on the respondents in that intended appeal. As a result, the
1 st and 2 nd Respondents successfully moved the Court of Appeal to strike out both
the Notice of Appeal and the Appeal itself for failure to comply with relevant
rules governing the institution of such appeals and the serving of relevant records
such as the Notice of Appeal, and due to professional negligence on the part of
the two appellants, the Court ordered the appellants to pay the costs both in the
Court of Appeal in respect of the appeal itself and the application to strike out
that appeal and the costs of the petition. The appellants appealed against the
The appellant was required a decretal sum for satisfaction of a judgment
decree which he had guaranteed, the appellant deposited the sum of
money with the court registrar which was collected by the respondent at
the end of the case. The respondent claimed interest on money deposited
in court and the appellant successfully brought a suit challenging the
interest payable and the respondent appealed to the Court of appeal
which allowed the appeal hence this second appeal.
This was an application by the plaintiff seeking an order declaring the first and second defendants’ construction of a milling plant and prospecting activities as unlawful, for interfering with the plaintiff’s agricultural activities.
The first defendant opposed the reliefs sought, on grounds that he was the lawful owner of the mining blocks.
The court first assessed the evidence and concluded that the defendants were not in compliance of the procedures set out under the Mines and Minerals Act, for registering the claims and the subsequent conversion into blocks. The court further held that the defendants failed to show any plan lodged with the Commissioner of Mines, as required under the Mines and Minerals Act.
Lastly, the court determined whether the land in dispute was cleared on or before the registration of the blocks and whether such land is the only portion, suitable of for farming. After outlining the rights of various parties, the court concluded that the plaintiff had no right to clear the land pegged for mining. However, the court could not make a holding on whether the prospecting operations were interfering with the plaintiff’s agricultural activities. This is because the plaintiff failed to
clarify whether the cleared field was located 450 metres from the principal homestead. The court therefore referred this issue to the Mining Commissioner for investigation and report, according to s 345 of the Mines and Minerals Act.
The court ordered the defendants to stop mining operations without complying with the law and to pay costs.
This was an urgent application by the applicant, seeking an order to stop the respondents from mining gold ore from an area which the applicant had a prospecting licence.
The court set out the requirements of an interdict and held that the applicant was required to prove the existence of a prima facie right. Secondly, that there was an injury actually committed or reasonably apprehended. Thirdly, that there was an absence of a similar or adequate remedy. Lastly, that the balance of convenience favoured the grant of the relief.
The court pointed out that the applicant had other remedies available. Such remedies included using the Ministry of Mines to demarcate the area between the parties. Secondly, ore claimed by the applicants was held as an exhibit in a criminal case, thereby removing urgency in the application and any irreparable harm that could be occasioned by waiting.
Accordingly, the court declined to deal with the matter on urgent basis, dismissed the application and ordered the applicants to pay the respondents’ costs on an ordinary scale.
This was an application for a decree of perpetual silence against the respondents for engaging in lawsuits aimed at harassing the applicants. The dispute between the parties emanated from certain claims in a mine, which resulted in over 30 court applications between the parties.
The court first dealt with the nature of the relief sought by the applicants. The court after citing authorities pointed out that the relief is recognised in the jurisdiction of the court. The court pointed out that in cases where repeated and persistent litigation between parties, in the the same cause of action, the court can make a general order prohibiting the institution of such litigation without the leave of the court. It was noted that such a remedy is extraordinary as it makes a person deaf before the court. The court also pointed out that the remedy is only granted where a party demonstrates to the court that the defendant or respondent is a serial litigator, with a tendency to abuse the court, the court process and the other party.
In dismissing the application, the court dealt with the history of the litigants and concluded that the respondents had a defined cause and were not serial litigators.
The court dismissed the application with costs on a higher scale.
The plaintiff issued summons claiming damages for malicious arrest, detention and prosecution due to the first defendant’s conduct during his employment with the second respondent. The second defendant owned a mine and employed the first defendant as a security manager. The plaintiff alleged that the first defendant laid false charges to the effect that the plaintiff had stolen gold slime from the mine, which resulted in his arrest, detention and prosecution for theft of the gold slime. The defendants averred that the first defendant discovered that 75 000 tonnes of gold slime had been stolen from the mine and he made a report to the police. After making investigations it was established that the plaintiff had instructed two of the employees of the second defendant to collect gold slime from the second defendant’s mine, which resulted in the plaintiff being arrested. At the pre-trial conference it was agreed that the issues were whether the defendants maliciously and wrongfully caused the arrest of the plaintiff and whether the plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
Held: (1) it is an actionable wrong to procure the imprisonment or arrest of anyone by setting the law in motion against him maliciously and without reasonable cause.
(2) For the plaintiff to succeed in an action for malicious prosecution he must prove that the prosecution was instigated by the defendants and that it was concluded in favour of the plaintiff and that there was no reasonable and probable cause for the prosecution and that the prosecution was actioned by malice. For malice to be present, the defendant must thus not only have been aware of what he was doing in instituting or initiating the prosecution but must at least have foreseen the possibility that he was acting wrongfully, but nevertheless continued to act, reckless as to the consequences of his conduct (doluseventualis). Negligence on the part of the defendant (or even gross negligence) will not suffice.
(3) The plaintiff failed to prove that his arrest, detention and prosecution were malicious and so the claim would be dismissed with costs.
This High Court case concerned an application for review in which the applicant sought an order that the third respondentÕs decision cancelling the applicants mining registration be set aside.
The dispute arose between the applicant and the second respondent allegedly due to a double allocation of the same mining area to the applicant and the first respondent. The third respondent convinced that there was a double allocation cancelled the applicants mining rights to the extent that their boundaries were overlapping. His reasoning was that the first respondent was the first to be allocated the disputed area. The applicant was dissatisfied with the decision and hence applied for a review to the High Court.
The issue for determination by the Court was thus whether the third respondentÕs decision was justified. The Court held that since the matter was first decided in the Mining CommissionerÕs Court, the appeal was supposed to be directed to the High Court per s361 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 1961 and not to the Minister. The High Court thus held that the entire proceeding, and the decision that followed it, was a nullity.
As such, the determination by the third respondent cancelling the applicantÕs Mining registration certificate held by the applicant was set aside with cost.
This was a ruling on an application to file a supplementary affidavit that would be admitted by the court as part of the applicant’s case.
The respondents argued that applicants could not rely on the said supplementary affidavit since they failed to join the authority (Director of Swaziland Environmental Authority) as a party to the proceedings. The court noted that one of the respondents was yet to make an application on the non-joinder of the authority.
The court held that admitting the supplementary affidavit before arguments on the non-joinder would prejudice the respondents. The correct approach would be to allow the respondents to argue the non-joinder and the applicants could then bring the supplementary affidavit in their replies.
The court concluded that the application for the filing of the supplementary affidavit be suspended until the applicants responded to the points of law.
No order of costs was granted.
In this case, the appellant brought this suit against the decision of the Chief magistrate, where it had been stated that the appellant was entitled to pay costs to the first and third respondents, before proceeding further with the case against the second respondent and his legal representative.
The appellant intended to withdraw the case against both the first and third respondents so that she could maintain the suit against the second respondent. The withdrawal was recorded and the trail magistrate ordered that she first pays costs to the first and third respondents.
The plaintiff in this case claimed for a sum of shs.137, 711,079/= as general damages, interest and cost of the suit, arising from default by the defendant to pay to the plaintiff the balance of the contracted work.
The defendant admitted liability to the plaintiff for the outstanding balance of 40, 189,000/=, but disagreed as to the measure of damages, interest and costs of the suit.
The issues that were famed for determination were; Whether the plaintiff was entitled to any damages, whether the plaintiff was entitled to the interest it claimed for, and whether the plaintiff was entitled to costs.
This matter originated from an application where the respondents were required to show cause why a final interdict should not be issued against them, to prohibit them from damaging the applicant's wattle forest and timber at the old Nkoyoyo quarry site.
In a series of events, the applicant requested for postponement of the hearing and later filed a notice of withdrawal and prayed for costs. The respondents prayed that the matter be dismissed with costs.
The court considered whether the withdrawal was proper in terms of rule 41 (1)(a) of the High Court Rules that required withdrawal by consent of the parties or leave of the court. The court found the withdrawal to be invalid since the applicant was not compliant with the rules.
The court considered whether the withdrawal application had any merit. The court held that the respondent had proved that the applicant had no right in the land, as per s 94 of the constitution, s 3 of the Safe Guarding of Swazi Areas Act of 1910 and s 2 of the Contract by Swazi Chief Act of 1924.
Consequently, the applicant failed to prove the requirements for an interim interdict and court found him to be in abuse of court process by seeking commercial advantage through the court.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed, and the applicant was ordered to pay punitive damages for abusing court process.
The applicants in this matter approached the high court seeking, inter alia, an interdict preventing the respondents from evicting 140 school children and from demolishing their homesteads.
The residents occupied the land in question through the traditional system of Khonta. After paying the prescribed livestock and fees to the area’s chief, they were allowed to settle on the land. However, it was later discovered that the land belonged to the Swaziland National Provident Fund and was therefore not under the control of the chief.
The applicants argued that the evictions were arbitrary and contravened s 18 and 29 of the Swaziland Constitution and that such evictions were a threat to education of their children.
The court first dealt with the issue of urgency and concluded that the court was prepared to hear the matter on an urgent basis. The court in deciding the matter weighed the rights of the children against those of property owners as contained in the Constitution. It concluded that the rights of children did not supersede the rights of the property owners. Therefore, the court held that the applicants failed to establish the requirements of an interdict and the rest of the orders they were seeking.
The matter was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an application for the ejectment of the respondent from the applicant’s premises.
The respondent was a sublease on property leased by the applicant. The area was subsequently declared a development in terms of the Land Act of 1979. The respondent had earlier applied for the setting aside of the declaration, which application was unsuccessful.
The court distinguished several cases that supported the view that in ejectment matters, courts should not quickly order the ejectment of a respondent who is carrying out business on the land.
The court found that the declaration of the area into a development, and the subsequent publication in the government gazette all supported the view that development had to continue.
The court further balanced the costs incurred by the applicants, the benefits of the development to the public and the fact that the applicant offered the respondents space in the completed development to support that the respondent had to vacate the premises.
The court ordered the respondent to vacate and to pay the costs of the application.
In this Court of Appeal case, the court determined who breached the contract of oil supply between the appellant and the respondent. The contract ran into a deadlock after three deliveries of the product when the appellants refused to accept one of the respondents’ deliveries upon presentation. The reason given for the resultant stalemate was that the product was not of the specification ordered.
The court below had penalised the appellant for unnecessarily breaching a contract. The appellant felt aggrieved and appealed to seek an overturn of the trial court’s judgment entered in favour of the respondents.
The Court of Appeal thus determined if there was a variation in the contract, when did that occur and also what did the variation entail.
In response, the Court of Appeal held that there was nothing on record to persuade the court that the respondent product was not of the specification ordered. The court thus maintained the decision of the court below. However, the Court of Appeal noted that the cost granted in the court below was exorbitant. In the end, the court dismissed the appellant case, but the costs awarded in the court below was accordingly varied.
The court considered an appeal against the decision of the High Court, in which the trial judge accepted the appellant’s case that the conduct of the respondent in ordering the seizure of her fish, and subsequently dealing with it in a manner inconsistent with the rights of the owner, was unlawful and consequently made an award in her favour for damages, but directed that the appellant pays the appropriate custom duties on the fish.
The issues facing the trial court was whether or not the seizure was lawful, whether the quantum of damages awarded in favour of the appellant was correct and whether the trial court was right to order that the respondent-cross-appellant pay custom duties.
The court held that the appellant suffered damages equivalent not to the cost price but fair market value of the fish. Therefore, it was just for the said amount to attract interest at the prevailing exchange rate from the date of the wrong. Since the fish were wrongfully dealt with by the respondent, there was no merit in the cross appeal.
Finally, the court dismissed the appeal of the appellant as well as the cross appeal of the respondent and affirmed the decision of the court below, however, ordered a variation, in relation to the award of damages and the payment of interest on the custom duties by the respondent.
The court considered an application declaring the suspension and non-renewal of the licence by the respondent, null and void. The applicant was further seeking an order compelling the respondent to pay damages incurred as a result of the suspension.
The court was faced with the question of how a court must approach cases brought through motion proceedings, which require oral evidence to be heard..
The court pointed out that while the suspension and non-renewal of the licence could be decided on motion proceedings, the application for damages required oral evidence.
The court found that damages require proof and therefore cannot be decided on motion proceedings.
The court came to decision that the matter be referred to trial and all affidavits and depositions which formed part of the application be used as pleadings in the action.
The court postponed the issue of costs, until the trial.
The court considered an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, staying the proceedings of the High Court.
The origin of the appeal was an application for a mandatory injunction, against the respondent, for disturbing the “natural calm flow” of the Volta River, into the sea, while executing their contractual obligations (marine reclamation). The Respondent appealed 3 interlocutory applications in the High Court, which appeals were still pending.
The stay was granted to the respondents following an application for judgment to be entered against them.
The appellant raised six grounds of appeal, however the court held that the determination of one main issue would dispose of the appeal. Thus, the court had to determine whether the Court of Appeal erred in granting the stay of proceedings.
The court noted that all the interlocutory orders were on appeal before the Court of Appeal. The court found that the court of appeal was right to halt the proceedings, since the determination of the interlocutory orders could have a serious effect on the case before the High Court.
It was further noted that an order staying proceedings is interlocutory, and discretionary and should not be interfered with unless it might result in serious injustice. The court found that the appellant failed to demonstrate that the discretion exercised would result to injustice.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The court considered an appeal against the judgment of the lower the court in in that the lower court erred in law by handing down the judgment in favour of the respondents.
The appellants argued that 1) the court had failed to acknowledge estoppel as part of the law of Lesotho. 2) that the learned judge erred in not finding that the respondent was precluded from seeking the relief by virtue of estoppel and 3) that the court had no power to make the order of costs.
On the question of whether the court was empowered to make a costs order, since it was not legislatively empowered to do so, the court held that despite the express powers in statute, the court had the capacity to make such order for reasons to do with justice.
On the withdrawal of the appeal, the court held that any party which wishes to withdraw an appeal must do so unequivocally. A litigant cannot unilaterally impose conditions on a case withdrawal to which an opponent and the court are enjoined.
The appeal was struck off the roll with costs.
This appeal arose from a rule nisi application that required the appellant to justify why an interdict should not be issued against him for the unlawful use of the respondent’s property.
The respondent instituted interdict proceedings when the appellant continued to use the disputed property after a default judgment that reinstated a previous judgment in his favor.
The court noted that interdict applications require proof of a clear right, an injury and the absence of any other satisfactory remedy.
The appellant submitted that the respondent had alternative remedies in contempt proceedings and a writ of execution. The court noted that the real issue was whether the alternative remedies would afford adequate protection from the continuing mischief. The court held that contempt proceedings are entirely unsatisfactory, where the injury has already started and is continuing. It was also held that a writ of execution was unsatisfactory for immovable property such as land.
The appellant claimed that service by postal service did not constitute proper service of summons as per rule 44 of Central and Local Courts (Practice and Procedure) Rules; and that this affected the validity of the default judgment. However, the court noted that the service was properly effected. It was also held that the validity of a default judgment was not affected by service of summons so, it was valid unless set aside lawfully.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.