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 case before the appellate court concerned an appeal against the ruling of the High Court where the appellant’s case was dismissed. In the High Court, the appellant sought to challenge the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear the matter.
The court considered whether the non-inclusion of the word ‘council’ to the names of the respondents was a misnomer and whether the High Court was justified in dismissing the appellant’s preliminary objection.
The court held that the non-inclusion of the word ‘council’ was indeed a misnomer which stood to be amended with the court’s discretion. Once amended, it gave the High Court the right to dismiss the appellant’s preliminary objection.
The court relied on legislation establishing the respondents in order to identify their correct names and the court stated that no other names could have been intended than those put forward by the respondents. The court was of the view that the appellant was being unnecessarily technical which led to an incorrect legal view.
As a result, the appeal was dismissed, and the ruling of the High Court was affirmed. Costs were ordered in favour of the respondents.
The court considered an application in a matter that dealt with a judgment that omitted counsel’s name. The court was asked to review and/or vary and/or annulling part of the Judgment to reflect the change. The court had the inherent power to correct a slip in its judgment. However, the slip rule can never be used by a party to seek clarity over a judgment but only correct minor errors.
Where counsel does appear and argue for the appellant, their names should not appear on the judgment. Further, only the names of counsel and not the parties are listed on the judgment. Once a court has delivered its decision on a matter, it ceases to be seized of the cases (functus officio), and it cannot re-open it for any purpose whatsoever except in appropriate and exceptional cases such as when judgment
(a) was obtained by fraud or deceit;
(b) was a nullity;
(c) was given under a mistaken belief that the parties consented to it;
(d) was given in the absence of jurisdiction;
(e) the proceedings adopted was such as to deprive the decision or judgment of the character of a legitimate adjudication; or
(f) was rendered with fundamental irregularity.
A court can however review a judgment to give effect to its meaning, correct clerical errors or accidental slips or omissions.
The court rejected the application to review or vary the judgment because it did not meet the criteria above but permitted the application to delete phrases that it was made in the absence of counsel and deleted reference to parties from appearances.
This was an appeal of the decision of a lower court to grant the respondents leave to amend their writ of summons in terms of substituting the 1st to the 12th plaintiffs with their personal representatives and guardians. The writ was taken out in the names of the deceased victims of the fire incident occasioned by the appellant. The appellant, via a notice of preliminary objection challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the application having been brought by deceased persons. This preliminary objection was not dealt with by the lower court in its decision.
The court held that the lower court committed a serious error when it did not consider a preliminary objection which challenged the jurisdiction of the court. A court must always establish that it has jurisdiction before it deals with any matter such as the merits of an amendment.
The court further held that the law recognizes two categories of persons who can sue and be sued. They are natural persons with life, mind and brain; and other bodies or institutions having juristic personality.
Accordingly, a dead person ceases to have legal personality and can neither sue nor be sued.
Therefore if the original writ of summons and initiating process are void, the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain or enter judgment in the matter. Based on the above principles, the court upheld the appeal and struct out the claim for want of jurisdiction.
The court considered three issues. Firstly, how a court should exercise its discretion in regulating a motion meant to regularise the process and the other meant to terminate the process. Secondly, whether the respondents were necessary parties to the suit. Lastly, whether the trial court was correct in awarding costs.
The court held that the practice was to give priority to hearing a motion set to regularise a process if the motion succeeds the other motions seeking to terminate the proceedings will be withdrawn. The court also held that respondents are necessary to a suit if they would be directly or financially affected by the outcome of the judgement of the case. Also, the court held that courts have absolute discretion to either award or refuse costs.
The court found that the trial judge instead of taking the motion for joinder and amendment, preliminary objections of the first and second respondent based on jurisdiction were taken which were meant to terminate the points in limine. The court also found that the respondents were necessary parties because they are not only interested in the subject matter of the proceedings, but they constitute those who in their absence the proceedings could not be fairly dealt with. The court found that the costs awarded were not exceptionally high or punitive to conclude that the court's discretion was not in the interest of justice.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal.
The court considered whether the joining of the fourth to the sixth respondent constituted an abuse of court process which had an interest in the land in dispute.
The court held that the effect of the High Court rules was that substantial justice is achieved if the parties and trial judges achieve just, efficient and speedy dispensation of justice.
The court found that the joinder of the fourth to sixth respondents to contest title to the land did not constitute an abuse of court process. They were entitled in law to file a statement of defence or counterclaim against the appellants.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal with costs.
The court considered whether the appellants were necessary parties in the suit, and what is the procedure to determine a reasonable cause of action.
The court held that a necessary party is one who is bound by the result of an action. Further held that cause of action is the facts which when proved entitle a plaintiff to a remedy against the defendant and the procedure thereof is showing that the statement of claim contained facts which if proved plaintiffs would succeed.
The court found that the appellants had made a premature application which supported the respondent’s contention that there is a reasonable cause of action, and that the second appellant is a necessary party to the proceedings.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and costs were awarded to the respondent.
Freedom of association – Labour unions – Membership in labour union
The case related to a declaration of title of a piece of land that was in dispute because both parties claimed ownership.
The court highlighted an appeal seeking to overturn a lower court’s decision must show that the court’s decision was wrong in law, did not take into consideration evidence or made findings in the absence of evidence. In essence a trial court decision can be overturn if it was not based on well-founded reasoning.
Further when suing on behalf a group of people, the party must clearly indicate so and failure to do so may affect that parties’ legal right to sue. Once you have indicated in what capacity you’re instituting a claim, you cannot subsequently change this.
The court in this case upheld and allowed the appeal because the Court of Appeal permitted the appeal that was not based on evidence before it. Further it was a fatality for the defendants to endorse their counterclaim by indicting they were doing so in a representative capacity.