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.
In 2009, the appellants brought an action
before the High Court on behalf of former
employees of National Sugar Works Ltd,
alleging unlawful termination of their services.
The respondents raised a preliminary objection
claiming that the suit was time barred. This
claim was dismissed by the High Court but
accepted in second instance by the Court of
Appeal. Being dissatisfied with the decision of
the Court of Appeal, the appellants filed a
further appeal before the Supreme Court. The
appellants argued that their suit against the
respondents was not time barred because they
were under disability due to war and rebel
The appellant sought a declaration that it was the lawful owner of a piece of land in dispute, and that the respondent has been a trespasser. The respondent filed seeking to strike out the appellant’s suit for being time-barred. The trial judge allowed the application. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against the dismissal. The Court of Appeal found no merit in the appeal and dismissed the same, hence this appeal.
The issue for determination for the appeal was whether the appellant could appeal to the Court of Appeal against the order of the trial court without the leave of court.
The court applied the principle that if the decision conclusively determines the rights of the parties, then it would be a decree; otherwise it would be an order. If for instance portions of a plaint are struck out as being frivolous, or if a suit is stayed, such a decision would be an order, whereas if a suit is dismissed with costs, that would be a decree. A decree is appealable as of right, whereas under the Civil Procedure Rules most orders are only appealable with leave of the court.
In applying the principle, the court found that the High Court decision disposed of the suit conclusively and the decision was therefore a decree within the meaning of s 2(c) of the Civil Procedure Act, even though it was worded as an order. It held that the appellant therefore had a right of appeal as against the decision and did not need to apply for leave to appeal to the court of appeal.
The appeal succeeded.
The applicant filed an application for correction of arithmetical error from a consent settlement order. The respondent argued that a party seeking to have an arithmetical or clerical error corrected as it were in this application must do so within sixty days from the date of the decree sought to be corrected.
The question for determination by the court in this application was whether that power could be exercised at any time. To answer the question the court relied on the court of appeal judgment where it was held that "we are satisfied that the phrase 'at any time means just that at anytime' subject to the rights of the parties, there should be no point in limiting the time in which to correct such innocuous mistakes or errors which are merely clerical or arithmetical with absolutely no effect on the substance of the judgment. Hence if what was sought in Misc. Civil Application No. 57 of 1993 was merely to correct clerical or arithmetical mistakes arising from an accidental slip or omission; we agree that such correction can be made at any time subject to the rights of the parties”.
The court then concluded that the phrase ‘at any time’ was not be construed to extend beyond the period after a decree is fully satisfied.
The application was therefore dismissed.
The issues for determination were whether this suit was time barred and whether the suit was bad in law for being in contravention of s 6 (2) of the Government Proceedings Act [Cap.5 R.E. 2002].
Section 6(2) of the Government Proceedings Act states that ‘no suit against the government shall be instituted, and heard unless the claimant previously submits to the government minister, department or officer concerned a notice of not less than ninety days of his intention to sue the government, specifying the basis of his claim against the government, and he shall send a copy of his claim to the Attorney-General.’
The court held that in determining the question of limitation, two principles must be considered. In the first place, the court must look at the whole suit, including the reliefs sought, and see if the suit combines more than one claim based on different causes of action as one of them may be found to be time barred while the others may not. In such circumstances, it is not proper to dismiss the whole suit as time barred. Second, the court, in interpreting the provisions of a law, should read those provisions in their context as a whole. Single sections should not be read or interpreted in isolation.
The court found that the suit against the government, having been prematurely instituted before complying with the mandatory provisions of section 6 (2) of the Government Proceedings Act, was bad in law and incompetent. The suit was dismissed.