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 case considered whether employees who were claiming compensation for loss of employment were ‘permanent employees’ in terms of an employment contract. The case additionally concerns whether the Court of Appeal had misdirected itself with regards to the weight of evidence.
The plaintiffs contended that they were employed by the respondent as permanent employees in terms of an employment contract. The respondent subsequently went into liquidation and the plaintiffs claimed for loss of compensation.
The court held that for a plaintiff to be entitled to benefits as an ex-employee, they should spell out clearly the terms of their employment as contained in their contract of employment and then prove their entitlements under those terms. The plaintiffs assume the burden of persuasion and producing evidence, however, it was clear that they were unable to produce a written agreement which spells out their terms of employment. The court found that any contract of employment for more than six months which was not in writing was unenforceable.
The plaintiffs had been employed for 10 and 12 years respectively, but failed to obtain letters of appointment. It became apparent that they were only employed for the duration that they were engaged on a particular voyage.
The court found that to be a permanent employee one would need to prove employment through the use of a contract of employment, which was in writing and could be used as evidence to illustrate the terms thereof. In this case, the plaintiffs were only employees when the respondents required their services. Furthermore, the court held that the Court of Appeal had not misdirected itself with regards to the weight of evidence as the plaintiff failed to properly prove their claim.
This court considered whether the court below erred in stating that the plaintiffs’ action was statute barred, that they erred in their interpretation of s 24 of the Social Security Decree 1972 and finding that the abrogation (doing away with) of the scheme was illegal, and that their order for specific performance should be upheld.
The plaintiffs were former employees of the defendant. The defendant established a pension scheme in 1976 and abrogated it in 1990. In the premise, the plaintiffs alleged that they were entitled to the payments from the pension.
The court found that in determining the interpretation of s 24 of the Social Security Decree, the court needed to ascertain whether the defendant had abrogated the scheme lawfully. It found that the plaintiffs were adequately informed of the termination of the scheme and that the defendant had lawfully wound up the scheme.
In considering whether the action was statute barred, and if the plaintiffs were entitled to specific performance, the court found that the plaintiffs’ action was instituted 16 years after the scheme was terminated. In the premise, and owing to the fact that the scheme was lawfully terminated, the plaintiffs were not legally competent to accrue a right under the scheme, thus, they were not entitled to claim specific performance.
Therefore, the plaintiffs could neither maintain an action and attempt to enjoy the benefits of the scheme, nor could they compel the defendant to compensate them under an abrogated scheme.
This was a second appeal by the appellant
against the decision of the Court of Appeal
which ruled that terminal benefits paid to the
respondents were not taxable under Section 19
of the Income Tax Act. The background is that
the respondents were retrenched and awarded
terminal benefits for which they sought from
the appellant the tax due. The appellant
reviewed and presented a sum that was
contested by the respondents and the high court
ruled that the amount given to the former
employees was akin to gratuity which was tax
exempt. The court of appeal agreed with the
trial court hence this appeal.