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 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the decision of the lower court to award a certificate of occupancy to the respondents after their original certificate was revoked. When their original certificate of occupancy was revoked the land was allocated to the appellant who had built a shopping mall.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 appellants, employees of the first respondent, appealed a decision against the lower court that dismissed the appellants’ suit claiming wrongful termination.
The court began its consideration of the appeal by assessing the implication of collecting entitlements by the appellants whilst their case was pending, and whether this estopped them from bringing a challenge against their termination. The Supreme Court held that collection of terminal benefits in respect of wrongfully terminated employment would not be a bar to challenging the wrongful termination. If a termination is wrongful then it cannot be remedied by the subsequent act of the injured party. The appellants were therefore held not to be estopped from challenging their termination.
The court held that the main issue for determination was whether employment of the appellants was wrongfully terminated. The sole witness for the appellants stated that there were conditions of service governing their employments, but failed to tender any documentary evidence in support thereof. The onus of proof rests on the appellants to tender the terms and conditions of service; failure to do so had dire consequences for the appellants’ case as it is a vital issue. The court held that at the trial the appellants failed to discharge the onus of proving wrongful termination and how the respondents breached the terms of employment. The appeal was dismissed for lacking merit
The court considered whether; the land occupied by the respondent was registered land, the grant of the lease was fraudulent, and estoppel is applicable.
The court held that s 31(1) of the Land Act gives security of tenure to a tenant on registered land. Moreso, the implications of the abolitions of statutory leases in terms of art 237 of the Constitution remains a grey area. The court also held that security of tenure protects a bona fide occupant 's interest. Also, under s 176 of the Registration of Titles Act, a registered proprietor is protected against ejectment except in certain cases including fraud. Further, to procure registration of title to defeat an unregistered interest amounts to fraud. The court also held that registration tainted with fraud does not give rise to the doctrine of estoppel.
The court found that respondent must continue occupation because they were in undisturbed possession and occupation before the 1995 Constitution. The abolition of statutory leases did not automatically extinguish such right. Also found that fraud was attributable to appellants because the grant and registration of suit land in the name of the second appellant was intended to defeat the unregistered interest of the respondent.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal with costs. Further ordered the first appellant to give due consideration to the respondent's application for a lease over the suit land including giving it a priority in the granting of the lease.
The background to this application is that the applicant filed against the respondent seeking to recover US$75,000, as payment made in error under a guarantee, interest and costs. The respondent counter-claimed for US$31,767 being the balance owed by the applicant on the guarantee, general damages for breach of the contract of guarantee, interest and costs.
The issue in contention was whether the plaintiff having represented to the defendant that it was entitled to a payment and even made part payment was barred by estoppels from claiming a refund of monies paid to the defendant after the failure of the third-party to make good on its obligations to the plaintiff.
It was held that a court can only exercise the discretion to grant a stay of execution if there are special circumstances and good cause to justify a stay. The inability of the victorious party to be able to refund the decremental amount in the event of a successful appeal is one of such special circumstances if proved.
The court held that the applicant failed to adduce any evidence to show that the respondent will not be able to restore it to the status quo ante if its appeal succeeded. Also, the deponent should have gone a step further to lay the basis upon which the court could make a finding that the applicant would have suffered substantial loss as alleged. The applicant should have gone beyond the vague and generalised assertion of substantial loss in the event a stay order is not granted. It is against this background that the court dismissed the application.
Each of the parties accused the other of breach of contract. The plaintiff alleged breach in terms of non-payment for services conducted. The defendant counter-claimed breach in terms of failure to comply with the set completion time and providing substandard quality work.
The defendant also contended that should it be found liable, it should be indemnified by a third party as it has been negligent in doing its work.This court held that the defendant is not entitled to indemnity or any contribution from the third party.
The court found that there was no breach of contract by the plaintiff in so far as completion time is concerned. The defendant waived the right to complain about completion time and was estopped from raising the issue. The defendant was found to not be entitled to monies claimed in the counterclaim, as there was no basis for it and this court had already held that the defendant waived its rights.
The plaintiff was found to be entitled to the monies reflected on two certificates. The plaintiff was not awarded the contractual interest claimed because the court held that the the defendant was justified in not paying contractual interest for an erroneously issued certificate.
Following its non-payment for construction services rendered, the plaintiff sued the defendant for breach of contract. A counter-claim was lodged alleging that the plaintiff breached the parties’ agreement through a significant delay in performance and sub-standard discharge of its obligations. Insofar as the third party had issued unqualified certificates of completion for the plaintiff’s/counter-defendant’s alleged malperformance, the defendant/counter-claimant contended that it was negligent and therefore liable for a degree of indemnification.
The defendant/counter-claimant was found to have impliedly waived its right to liquidated damages for late performance and consequently estopped from enforcing it. The court found further that the plaintiff’s/counter-defendant’s performance, while flawed in some respects, was not materially defective. The issuing of a certificate of completion marks the close of liquidated damages liability and commences the period of defects liability, where errors in performance are identified and submitted to the contract debtor for rectification. Failure to rectify does not give a right to sue for breach but rather gives the employer the right to refuse to release retention monies.
The third party was found to have conducted its work competently, barring one erroneously issued certificate, and was under no obligation to indemnify the defendant. The defendant was therefore indebted to the plaintiff for the outstanding amounts stipulated by the lawfully issued certificates. Because the defendant had accepted and made use of the plaintiff’s performance, despite the erroneously issued certificate of completion, the court found that it was liable to compensate the latter under the law of unjustified enrichment. Judgment was entered for the plaintiff with costs.
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 defendant procured the services of the plaintiff for upgrades to some of the city’s drainage sites. Following the defendant’s non-payment – pursuant to the issuing of several interim payment certificates by the project manager – the plaintiff terminated the contract, upon which time a final certificate was issued by the project manager for work hitherto completed, in observance of the agreement’s termination procedure. The defendant objected to the payable figures outlined in the final certificate due to its apparent failure to factor in alleged performance anomalies on the part of the plaintiff. The defendant unilaterally reviewed the certificates before issuing a final certificate with a reduced outstanding fee. Establishing which set of certificates was legally enforceable formed the heart of the dispute.
The court ruled in favour of the plaintiff, finding the defendant’s claims to be substantially impaired on several grounds. The regulations impacting the issue and review of payment certificates came into force after the conclusion of the contract, so general legal principles and the agreement’s terms took precedence in the court’s analysis. The defendant’s unilateral amendment of the final certificate did not accord with the parties’ General Conditions of Contract; it was not delivered to the plaintiff nor agreed to in writing thereby.
The issuing of final certificates creates a liquid debt – discrepancies ought to have been raised prior to certification and resolved by adjudication or arbitration as per the parties’ agreement. Failing this, the court found that the set-off sought by the plaintiff ought to have been raised in the current suit via counter-claim and not through unilateral adjustment of the final certificate.
The defendant was found further to have misrepresented a final certificate of completion to the plaintiff, following the project manager’s issuing thereof, and consequently estopped from raising the erroneous conduct of its project manager as a justification for its non-payment. The plaintiff was awarded damages with interest reflecting the conventional rate for commercial banking.