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 first issue was whether the defendant was immune from suit. The court established from legislation that protection applied against legislative and executive actions of member states and did not extend to private parties bringing a suit. It reasoned that fairness and public policy demanded for individual parties contracting with the defendant to have recourse when there is breach. Third parties could therefore sue.
The second question was whether interest rate revisions made without notice were unlawful and amounted to breach. The court observed there was no evidence of formal service of written notification for the revised rates. It also reasoned that the subsequent service would not amount to a retrospective application of the rates. It thus concluded that the interest rates prior to the notification were unlawful and in breach and, to compensate for the unlawful deprivation, ordered the refund of the unlawfully paid amounts plus general damages and interest costs.
Finally, the court had to decide whether the interest upon default penalty imposed on the applicant were harsh and unconscionable and therefore unlawful. From assessing legislation and case law the court found that generally interest upon penalty is considered legitimate to compensate better for pre-estimated damages from default. However, it is required that it be genuine and reasonably relative to the legitimate enforcement of the primary obligation so as to not impose a disproportionate detriment to the defaulter. Since the plaintiff had failed to prove unreasonableness and harshness of interest rates, the court could not find reason to declare them unconscionable.
The matter arose from a dispute about the detention of goods belonging to the second plaintiff by the defendant.
The first issue was whether the detention was lawful. Section 214 of the East African Community Customs Act required notice of detention to owners when known. As ownership was not clear, the court observed that notice was not necessary. It also further reasoned that the conduct of the defendant did not amount to seizure as the goods were already in their hands with the knowledge of owners before they were impounded. The court thus held lack of notice did not breach the legislation and therefore not unlawful.
On whether the goods were wrongfully detained, the court reasoned that the act of holding out representation of title by the second plaintiff and the allegations of fraud was cause for investigation by the defendants and consequent detention pending investigation of ownership. Further, the defendant was legally obliged to hold on to the goods as a lien pending the demand of payment of tax. The detention was therefore lawful.
Lastly, the court considered whether the MoU entered into by the plaintiffs and defendant was entered into by duress. Citing Pao On v Lau  3 ALL ER 65 for factors to prove duress, the court noted that the plaintiffs protested and denied indebtedness arising from the memorandum of understanding (MoU) but did not necessarily repudiate immediately or seek redress. It thus reasoned that the actions of the plaintiff did not show duress and therefore held the MoU was entered without duress.
The matter involved a dispute over the charging of taxes on the plaintiff on imports of sugar under a duty-free license.
The main issue was whether the sugar was imported after expiry of the six-month license. The court considered the definition of ‘import’ in the East African Community Customs Management Act (EACCMA) and established that since importation was allowed under East African Community Law the definition covered bringing of the goods into a Partner State. It also looked at the time of importation in the act which it gave as the point at which the goods come within the boundaries of the Partner States. Having looked at the powers that enabled the granting of the licenses to import by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives as being sourced from East African Community law, the court thus reached that the goods had been imported within the period of granting of the license when they arrived in Mombasa in October 2011. Since the sugar in question was imported within time it was concluded to have been part of the sugar exempted from customs duty by East African Community law. Held the assessment for import duty of the plaintiff by the defendant was wrongful.
The court thus allowed for a refund of duties charged on sugar sold within Uganda with interest costs but denied all other damages arising from goods re-exported to other countries on the reasoning that the re-exports contravened the terms of the license.