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 arose from a decision on a dispute about traditional ownership of land between the appellant or the respondent’s family in favour of the respondents.
As the trial court had found in favour of the respondent, the key question was whether the trial court was correct in its findings. The court first noted the trial court’s failure to fully address all issues necessary for determining a declaration of title before making a comment on the judgment’s failure to appraise and evaluate the evidence presented to it. It asserted that it is a legal requirement for a court to consider and determine all issues brought before it otherwise the judgment would be flawed and could amount to a miscarriage of justice and breach of fair hearing. The court thus reasoned that the total dearth of findings on any of the substantial issues of facts and law by the trial court rendered its judgment a nullity. Hence the trial court’s judgment was incorrect.
Further, the court decried the trial court’s failure to deal with salient issues that included evidence of traditional history, inheritance and length of possession as an abdication of its duties. On whether the court could remedy this, it noted that since these depended heavily on credibility of witnesses, would be handicapped to make findings to resolve the dispute. The court thus set aside the judgment of the trial court and remitted the matter to the High Court for de novo hearing.
The matter involved an appeal over a decision made about a contractual dispute between the appellant and the respondent.
The first issue was whether the trial court had jurisdiction to consider a contractual matter between an individual banker and his bank. The court engaged with the interpretation of the relevant constitutional provision (s 251(1)(d)) as given by the Supreme Court and established that it granted concurrent jurisdiction between federal and state High Courts in customer-bank matters. The court reasoned that the provision is an exception to the exclusive jurisdiction enjoyed by federal courts. It concluded that the trial court had jurisdiction, though concurrent, to decide the matter at issue.
The second issue was whether there had been sufficient proof at the trial court to support judgment in favour of the respondent. Acknowledging that this issue required the court to embark on a re-evaluation of the evidence, the court emphasised that interference could only be done if it is shown that the trial court’s judgment was perversely flawed. After reviewing the trial court processes, the court concluded that there was a failure to properly evaluate the totality of all evidence, particularly determining what was admissible or inadmissible, before making its decisions. Since there was proof of an absence of a nexus link between the conclusions of the court and the proven facts, the appellate court could thus interfere and re-evaluate the evidence. The trial court’s judgment was therefore found to be fraught with error and was set aside.
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.
The court considered whether the evidence led in the court below was properly evaluated. This case concerned whether the court below erred in assessing the weight of evidence accordingly and considered the personal opinion of the judicial officer when adjudicating the matter.
The court found that the evaluation of evidence and the ascription of probative value to such evidence are the primary functions of a trial court, who has the opportunity of seeing, hearing and assessing the witnesses and their respective evidence. Once determining that, the court will evaluate the evidence and justifiably assess the facts.
The court found that the evidence that was led was properly before the court below and that their findings were based purely on the evidence. Thus, the issue of substitution of opinion into evidence was clarified where the appeal court found that the court below applied the law to the proved facts and that cannot be considered to amount to a substitution of opinion.
The court considered whether the court below properly evaluated the evidence, and were they correct in expunging the evidence. Furthermore, it looked at whether the doctrine of waiver had been correctly applied.
This case looked at whether the revocation of the property as well as the sale of the property was null and void.
The court considered s 83(1)(b), 2(a) and (5) of the Evidence Act and found that a wrongly admitted piece of evidence is not a sacrosanct, it is still subject to scrutiny by the appellate court.
The court found that inadmissible evidence ought not to be admitted, even by mistake, and if it is, the appeal court ought to consider the case on the legally admissible evidence and preclude that which is inadmissible.
It is trite that the evaluation of evidence is essentially the function of the trial judge, where the trial judge has unquestionably evaluated the evidence before him and ascribed probative value to it, it is not the business of the appeal court to disturb such findings of fact, unless the findings are perverse.
In considering the doctrine of waiver, it was found that waiver means that the person in whose favour a benefit or right exists, is aware of those rights or benefits, but chooses to freely not take advantage of those rights or benefits. Thus, the doctrine of waiver could not be applied.
This case concerns a dispute between property owners willing to sell that property and tenants of that property willing to buy it. The parties differ in their interpretation of what constitutes a binding contract.
The court considered whether the letters of expression of interest gave rise to contractual obligations between appellants and respondents. The court held that for the an acceptance of an offer to be valid, that acceptance must conform to the terms of the offer. In this case, none of the appellants satisfied the conditions stated in the letter of expression of interest in purchase of the house. Consequently, the court found that there was no valid acceptance and no valid contract.
The appeal court was also asked to consider whether the trial judge properly considered and evaluated the evidence presented before him. The court held that it is the duty of the trial court to review evidence and that it is not the role of the appellate court to substitute its views for those of the trial court unless the latter failed to consider the totality of the case. In this case, the court of appeal was satisfied that the trial court fully considered the case and, therefore, found no reason to temper with its findings.
The appeal was dismissed.
The court considered whether it is proper for a trial court to embark upon an examination of documents tendered as exhibits when such examination will amount to a fact-finding investigation that leads to the discovery of fresh facts. Further, whether the trial court was justified in refusing to admit the pictures of the restaurant as an exhibit.
The court held that evaluation of evidence is primarily the function of the trial court. However, where the trial court fails to evaluate such evidence properly, the appellate court can interfere and reevaluate the evidence. The court also held that photographs are not admissible in evidence without their negatives in terms of the Evidence Act.
The court found that the trial court did not make sufficient effort to evaluate the evidence. The court also found that although exhibit 3 was tendered and admitted without objection, the trial court did not discredit the exhibit in the process of its evaluation. The court found the evidence of the photographs inadmissible because it was in variance with the pleadings and the negatives were destroyed.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal.
First appellant applied for, and was allotted, a piece of state land under a temporary right of occupancy (TRO), which was non-transferable to third parties. First appellant built a restaurant on the land, which second appellant managed while first appellant lived in the USA. The second appellant was not granted any right of occupancy.
The issues for determination were: whether the trial court made a finding of fact that could only be made after leading evidence; whether the trial court was justified in discrediting or attacking evidence tendered by the appellant that was without objection by the respondent, who also led no evidence to contradict the same; and whether the trial court was justified in refusing to admit the pictures of the restaurant.
The appeal court found that the trial judge properly evaluated the documentary evidence before it and used its evaluation thereof to arrive at its decision. An appellate court may interfere where the trial court fails to evaluate the evidence properly. The court found that it was not in a position to interfere with the views of the trial court.
Issue two was resolved in favour of the respondents for the same considerations and conclusion as issue one. Issue three was decided in favour of the respondents as the evidence was held to be inadmissible because it was not in conformity with the pleadings.
The appeal was without merit and dismissed.