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 appellants, employees of the first respondent, appealed a decision against the lower court that dismissed the appellants’ suit claiming wrongful termination.
The court began its consideration of the appeal by assessing the implication of collecting entitlements by the appellants whilst their case was pending, and whether this estopped them from bringing a challenge against their termination. The Supreme Court held that collection of terminal benefits in respect of wrongfully terminated employment would not be a bar to challenging the wrongful termination. If a termination is wrongful then it cannot be remedied by the subsequent act of the injured party. The appellants were therefore held not to be estopped from challenging their termination.
The court held that the main issue for determination was whether employment of the appellants was wrongfully terminated. The sole witness for the appellants stated that there were conditions of service governing their employments, but failed to tender any documentary evidence in support thereof. The onus of proof rests on the appellants to tender the terms and conditions of service; failure to do so had dire consequences for the appellants’ case as it is a vital issue. The court held that at the trial the appellants failed to discharge the onus of proving wrongful termination and how the respondents breached the terms of employment. The appeal was dismissed for lacking merit
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to decline jurisdiction to determine an issue of wrongful termination and compensation thereof.
The court interpreted the provisions of the Labour Act to differentiate the jurisdiction of the Commission from that of the High Court. The court applied the provisions of art 140 of the Constitution to the effect that the High Court has jurisdiction to enforce every right created by statute unless it is ousted in the Constitution. It was held that the previous court had the power to make the relevant award on the strength of the applicable law, terms of employment and evidence adduced before it. The fact that its jurisdiction is excluded in respect of other reliefs does not entitle the court to decline jurisdiction altogether. The court may hear the whole case but decline to grant the reliefs it is not competent to grant when it delivers its final judgment in the matter. Accordingly, the application was granted, the order of the High Court was set aside and an order was made for the High Court to assume its jurisdiction and determine the matter.
The appellants had been dismissed from their employment by the respondent, the Institute of Social Work, following their alleged participation in an unprotected strike. The matter was heard by the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA), and then the High Court, to outcomes with which both parties were aggrieved. On appeal, the litigants lodged multiple grounds for consideration (the respondent cross-appealing), which the appellate court condensed into three main issues.
First, the respondents argued that the appeal by the second to twenty-first appellants was incompetent because they did not file a case before the CMA. The respondents argued that the appellants ought to have filed an application for a representative suit under order VIII rule 7 of the Civil Procedure Code. However, the court found that there are specific provisions under the labour laws which are instructive regarding labour disputes involving several employees. The court highlighted section 86(1) of the Employment and Labour Relations Act (ELR), as well as rules 5(2), 5(3) and 12(1) of the Mediation Rules and found that the appellants had acted in accordance therewith.
Secondly, that the appellants were not given clear charges for their misconduct and were denied an opportunity to be heard during the disciplinary proceedings was a clear violation of the constitutional principle of natural justice. The termination was therefore void and of no legal effect.
Lastly, because no fair or valid reason in terms of the labour law had been clearly stated to the employees for their termination, this meant that it was unfair under section 37(2) of the ELR, as well as contrary to rule 8(1)(c) and (d) of the ELR Code of Good Practice Rules.
The appeal was upheld with the court setting aside the decisions of the CMA and the High Court. The appellants were granted leave to institute proceedings against the respondent before the CMA de novo (afresh) so as to determine their rights. Each party was ordered to bear their own costs.
The respondent’s employment with the appellant was terminated following an e-mail he had sent to his immediate supervisor expressing indignation at the way the latter had reprimanded him in the workplace. A disciplinary committee found him guilty of misconduct and dishonesty which formed the basis of the dismissal.
The respondent challenged the decision at the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA) where he sought reinstatement because he alleged that he was unfairly terminated and that the disciplinary proceedings were improperly conducted. The CMA found against him on both counts.
Successfully applying for revision before the High Court, the presiding judge ordered his reinstatement after finding that, although the disciplinary proceedings had been conducted in accordance the Employment and Labour Relations Code of Good Practice, the arbitrator had erred in arriving at a finding of insubordination. This was because the words used in the e-mail, given the circumstances of the case, were justifiable and thus not offensive. Moreover, the learned judge expressed a view about the authenticity of the e-mail.
These findings of the trial judge formed the basis of this appeal, which was upheld. The appellate court noted that the court below had raised two issues of its own volition, in coming to its decision, without affording the parties an opportunity to be heard thereon. Although judges are generally compelled to decide matters based on the issues on record, questions raised suo motu are permissible where they are placed on record so as to give the parties a chance to address them. The High Court’s failure to do so resulted in a procedural irregularity which consequently vitiated its ruling.
The appellate court therefore quashed and set aside the judgment of the court a quo before remitting the record thereto for determination by another judge.