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 appellant who undertook to invest and acquire shares in a telecom company brought an action
against the respondents for breach of contract, damages and interest. The appellant’s suit was dismissed
on a preliminary point of law as it disclosed no cause of action against the 2 nd and 3 rd respondents.
The appellant contended that the respondent, contrary to the decision of the lower court, be held responsible for the debts of a company. The appellant contended that the company was a mere façade, as the respondent was both a shareholder and subscriber of the company. The contract of service between the parties was not in writing. The court held that it is only when the claimant has proved the existence of the contract that the burden will shift to the defendant to prove his denial of its existence.
The main issue was whether the defendant was liable to pay the debts of the company.
In this case, the respondent did not go into the contract as an agent for the company. A company has no soul or body through which it can act, it can only do so through human agents; but which acts they cannot be personally held liable for. The court said that the effect of incorporation and registration of a company, firm etc is to confer on it legal entity as a person separate and distinct from its members. It is a legal person with a personality of its own.
The court went on to state that the appellant failed to show that the findings of the lower court were perverse and not based on the evidence adduced. This is why the appeal failed.
The issue was whether the trial court had jurisdiction to hear a petition for winding up and whether the respondent had required authorization to petition for winding up.
The appeal emanated from the dismissal of the appellant’s objection to a petition for winding up the appellant company. The appellant argued that the trial court had no jurisdiction to decide on the matter. It pointed out that only the English courts had exclusive jurisdiction to decide on any dispute between the parties. Moreover, the appellant challenged the legal personality of the respondent arguing that they did not provide original certificates of incorporation and that the respondent did not receive authority of shareholders to petition for the winding up.
The respondent opposed the appeal on the grounds that the English courts had exclusive jurisdiction only on disputes and not on a petition for winding up. It further argued that it required a trail to verify the authenticity of the certificate of incorporation. Lastly the respondent pointed out that since they were duly incorporated, they were authorized to work on behalf of the shareholders.
The court in dismissed the first two points raised by appellant. The court held that the English court’s exclusive jurisdiction did not extend to petitions and that documents attached to an affidavit in an interlocutory application should not be used as an objection to the issue of admissibility. However the court ruled that the respondent required the approval of directors and shareholders to file a petition to wind up. Thus the appeal was upheld.