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 was whether the Corporate Affairs Commission (appellant) has powers to inspect affairs of banks (respondents) without a court order.
The case emanated from decision of the trial judge declining to grant an order directing the respondents to comply with the appellant inspectors.
The appellant argued that the Companies and Allied Matters Act (the act) empowers it to carry out an inspection without the need of a court order. It pointed out that the trial judge erred by holding that the appellant require a court order to investigate the respondents.
The respondents opposed the appeal by pointing out that the appellant can only carry out an inspection on the respondents through a court order and that the appellant had no power to appoint inspectors. They further argued that allowing an inspection by the appellant amount to breach of bank/client confidentiality.
The court ruled that the act allows the appellant to appoint investigators at the instances of company members or through a court order. It held that s 314(1) of the act empowers the appellant to investigate affairs of the banks without the need of a court order. The court ruled that the trial judge erred and the appeal was upheld.
This is a second appeal by the appellant, both
his original suit in the High Court and his
subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeal
having been dismissed. The background is
that the appellant thought to borrow money
from the respondent and gave security as his
land, the issued cheque bounced and the
respondent used the security to secure a
mortgage from the first respondent which he
failed to pay and the first respondent sold the
land. The appellant was evicted and the
business closed and the appellant alleged
fraud but was unsuccessful both at high court
and court of appeal hence this appeal on the
grounds of the sale of land using the power of
attorney, the validity of the mortgage on the
appellants land, holding on fraud, improper
consideration of the evidence on record and
complete disregard of the facts.
A dispute between the company and the bank arose in respect of a specimen signature card allegedly issued for Susan Margaret Howard Bristow (Susan) as a director of the company. The dispute arose because the signature of Dr. Alex Babitunga authenticating Susan's specimen signature card was apparently forged. Additional words written on the card, altering the previous arrangements with the bank requiring two signatures for authorisation of withdrawals, appeared without any initials, signatures, authentication or stamping by the person or persons who cancelled them. The bank permitted certain withdrawals from the company bank account in accordance with the instructions on the card; as opposed to the earlier instructions.
The respondent alleged that the appellant had acted in breach of its duty to the respondent as its customer and had been negligent in permitting the respondent’s accounts to be cleared of all the money in them without the respondent’s authority.
The issues were whether the lower court erred in law and in fact in not holding that the respondent was estopped from saying that Susan Bristow was not an authorized signatory to the respondent's account.
The court explained that the principles of estoppel provides that when one person has, by his or her declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true and to act upon that belief, neither he or she nor his or her representative shall be allowed, in any suit or proceeding between himself or herself and that person or his or her representative, to deny the truth of that thing. One of the conditions for the doctrine to apply is, therefore that the act or omission by the person against whom estoppel is to be set up, as a defense, must have been intentionally caused, in the instant case the fraud which the two courts below found had caused the appellant to act to its detriment believing it to be true was unknown to the respondent until the police report. The court held that the defense of estoppel was not available to the bank against the company because the respondent was unaware of Susan's fraudulent signatures on the cheques until the police investigation and report.
The court held that all documents concerning the respondent's accounts were in the possession and custody of appellant bank. Only the appellant knew and was responsible for entries on the bank accounts, it bore responsibility as the banker to what entries were made on those accounts without respondent's authority. The appeal was therefore dismissed with costs.
In this case, the appellant claimed that the trial magistrate erred in holding that the appellant had a contractual duty to inform the respondent of the garnishee order. This case illustrates the duty to inform with regards to garnishee orders that also applies to banks.
The court considered whether the trial magistrate erred in holding that the appellant was legally bound to inform the respondent on the existence of the garnishee order. The court held that a bank has the duty to inform a customer in good time of a garnishee order so that the customer may take legal steps if he so wishes. Thus, the court held that though a notice from the appellant had been made in good time the fact that it reached the respondent late amounted to a breach of the fiduciary duty between them.
The court also held that it is a principle of law that an issue not raised at trial will not be entertained on appeal. Thus, the appellant was not allowed to raise questions as to whether the garnishee order was satisfied nor whether it was set aside.
In considering general damages, the court held that the trial court was correct in awarding general damages. The court dismissed the appeal in its entirety.