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.
Civil Procedure — Limitation of actions — Disability as legal incapacity — Disability as inability — suit for failure of government in its constitutional duty and undertaking to provide security by way of armed escorts during the plaintiff's execution of road construction — Action statute barred.
The appellant had decided not to claim two previous accidents because he did not want to lose his no-claim bonus. This case highlights the effects of an “OUT bonus” clause within an insurance policy that positively discourages clients from submitting claims.
The court considered whether the appellant’s failure to disclose the two previous incidents in which the vehicle was damaged within 30 days, allowed the respondent to avoid liability in terms of the contract. The court had to decide whether the appellant’s inaction amounted to a breach of the insurance policy, which had stated in plain language that one is rewarded for not claiming.
The court held that the insurer’s policy created a self-absorption of any damage caused by the insured, whereby, the insured was to be paid 10% of their premiums after the first three years of the policy. The court held that this formed the basis of the appellant’s decision to not disclose his claims.
The court was not satisfied that the appellant’s failure to disclose the two previous incidents within 30 days amounted to a rejection of the claim. The court held that the obligation to report “incidents” created uncertainty, especially in situations whereby the insured had no intention of lodging a claim. In this case, it was evident that the appellant’s decision not to claim was a result of the attraction of the OUT bonus.
Thus, the court upheld the appellant’s claim and held that the defendant was liable to compensate the appellant.
This case presented the first instance where South African labour courts were called to determine the relationship between a garden leave clause and a post termination restraint of trade clause where a contract of employment contained both.
The court considered whether the applicant had waived its right to enforce the notice period by terminating the first respondent’s employment with immediate effect and the reasonableness of the duration restraining the commercial activity of the first respondent in the garden leave clause and/or the post termination restraint clause.
The court held that the applicant was entitled to enforce the period of the garden leave and the post termination restraint of trade clause. The court adopted the rule that a garden rule provision should be taken into account when determining the reasonableness of the restraint duration. The court also took into account the seniority of the first respondent that exposed him to confidential knowledge of the applicant’s business and held that the cumulative restraint period of 12 months was reasonable.
Accordingly, the court granted the application and declared that the first respondent’s contract of employment terminated on 30 June 2016 and that he was restrained from disclosing any confidential information or engaging in any commercial activities with competitors until 31 December 2016.
The applicant brought a complaint against the defendants for contravening the market allocation prohibition of the Competition Act (the act) by entering into an ongoing agreement allocating market territory for the sale of locking products in both the Free State and Northern Cape. They sought to have the defendant’s conduct declared in contravention and consequently interdicted and charged with a 10% turnover administrative charge in respect of the contravention.
The first issue was whether the commission could allege market allocation for all products. Looking at the legislative powers of the commission, the Competition Tribunal reasoned that since the agreement’s subject matter covered all products the commission had authority therein.
The tribunal then considered whether the agreement was still ongoing after the coming into effect of the act and s 4(1)(b)(ii). It assessed the evidence and established that the defendants had not competed with each other since the entry into agreement until the time in issue and thus the agreement remained ongoing.
The final issue was whether the agreement’s rationale was in contravention of the section above. By looking at the ratio in American Soda Ash Corporation and Another vs. Competition Commission and Others  1 CPLR 1 (SCA) and The Competition-Commission and Pioneer Foods (Pty) Ltd, Case No: 15/CR/Feb07, the tribunal highlighted that s 4(1)(b)(ii)’s market allocation prohibition is a per se prohibition and thus there can be no justification for the conduct.
The agreement was held to be ongoing and in contravention of s 4(1)(b)(ii).
The matter involves a merger approval application for an already implemented merger between Media24 and Novus following concerns raised by Caxton and a consequent divestiture.
The Competition Tribunal first considered whether the merger had raised any competition concerns. It dealt with two concerns; information exchange and input foreclosure. In assessing the information exchange concern, the tribunal accepted the parties’ assertion that appointing non-operational persons to the Novus board would minimise the risk of information sharing.
Concerning the possibility of competitor foreclosure, the tribunal accepted that the lack of Novus’ competitors to absorb the foreclosed capacity gives more incentive for foreclosure. However, it reasoned that this incentive is countered by the divestiture which reduces media24’s control, both de jure and de facto, over Novus. Further, it noted that the other publications handled by Novus are not in competition with Media24 thus it would not need to foreclose.
The tribunal also considered if the merger raised public interest concerns, mainly whether the merger would negatively affect smaller businesses. It was stated that noting that there is reduced possibility of market foreclosure - conduct which would negatively impact these businesses, these concerns fell away. Moreover, it was noted that the merger would in fact positively impact B-BBEE shareholders of Media24 hence it positively served public interests.
The Tribunal therefore concluded that considering the divestiture and the absence of negative competition and public interests impacts, the merger transaction has to be approved.
This case developed common law to hold an employer liable where one of its employees is sexually harassed by a senior employee.
The court considered the employer’s liability in tort for sexual harassment of its junior employee by a senior employee. The court held that the first and second respondent were jointly and severally liable for the damages suffered by the plaintiff as a result of sexual assault perpetrated against her.
The court applied the rule that an employer is vicariously liable for the actions of its employee when an unlawful act is connected to the conduct authorised by the employer. The court held that the first respondent placed the second respondent in a senior position of trust and thus had the responsibility of ensuring that the second respondent was capable of that trust. This trust created the causal link between the second respondent and the wrongful act and that the employment relationship facilitated the sexual harassment.
The court also found the first respondent liable for imposing a two-week suspension as opposed to dismissing the second respondent for sexual harassment of a younger subordinate.
Accordingly, the court granted the application for damages in the sum of R4 million jointly and severally from the first and second defendant.
Application focused on the poor conditions and lack of maintenance and repair of the roads network of the farming communities of the Eastern Cape and the socio-economic effects that follow. The applicants sought a structural interdict against the respondents which would have the effect of declaring them legally obliged to repair roads in the province, along with an order that the obligations be complied with and the submission of reports illustrating the steps to be taken to fulfil the obligations.
Upon objection by the respondents, the court considered whether a structural interdict was appropriate in such circumstances and whether a constitutional or statutory basis for seeking such an interdict existed. The court held that there was a constitutional and statutory basis for a structural interdict.
According to s 125(2)(a) of the Constitution the premier, along with the executive council, exercise executive authority through the implementation of provincial legislation, thus failure to repair roads meant that the rights to education and access to health care were indirectly affected. In addition, s 3 of the act encompasses an obligation to use power which rests only on the MEC or persons delegated thereby.
Accordingly, the application and draft order of the applicants were both substantially successful as time frames were included by the court. A comprehensive order is set out in para 48 of the judgement. The first and second respondents were ordered to pay costs of application, including all reserved costs.
This was an application to compel the Competition Commission of South Africa to produce a record of investigation.
The issue emanated from an investigation by the respondent on banks on allegation of collusive conduct in regard to trade in foreign currency. The applicant was one of the banks investigated. The applicant requested without success on several times for the record of investigation from the respondent. It then made an application to compel the respondent to provide the record.
The respondent opposed the application arguing that the applicant should have proceeded by way of review under Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) because its action amounted to an administrative act. The applicant on the other hand argued that the commission’s conduct did not constitute administrative action and the tribunal should consider the application.
In deciding the matter, the Competition Tribunal held that the respondent action did not qualify as administrative action because it does not meet the requirement of finality. However, it found that the Competition Commission cannot be compelled to provide the requested record because of the complex nature of the process. It ruled that the respondent should provide the requested record during discovery.
The dispute centered on whether the decision by the Land Disputes Tribunal (the tribunal) was marred by irregularities due to the absence of proper assessor involvement.
The first question was whether it was necessary to record the opinion of the assessors even when they were in agreement with the chairman of the tribunal. The court asserted that the ‘unclear involvement of assessors in the trial renders such trial a nullity.’ It also stated that it was mandatory for the opinion of the assessors to be on record. It therefore reasoned that there was a serious irregularity in the trial as the assessors had not given their opinion.
Regarding the effect of the change of assessors during the trial the court averred that this was in contravention of section 23(3) of the act as the provision did not contemplate a complete change of all assessors in its latitude.
The above was tied by the fact that the assessors had not been present throughout the whole trial, conduct which resulted in the tribunal not being properly constituted as required by s 23(1) and (2) of the act.
The final question therefore was whether the above could be cured. The court reasoned that the omissions went to the root of the matter and resulted in a failure of justice. It thus concluded that the trial was vitiated by the irregularities and nullified the tribunal’s proceedings.
The matter involved a question of competency of appeal regarding a land dispute.
The court referred to section 47(1) of the Land Disputes Courts Act which allows a person, when aggrieved by the decision of the High Court, to appeal to the Court of Appeal provided they have been granted leave in accordance with the Appellant Jurisdiction Act.
The court reasoned that as there was no valid and surviving leave to appeal, the appeal was incompetent. It considered this failure to comply with a mandatory step in the appeal process as fatal to the appeal and therefore struck out the appeal fo incompetence
The matter involved an application to extend the time period of filing an appeal against an alleged illegal decision of the High Court.
The court began by reiterating that the decision to grant an application for extension is a discretionary power. This discretionary power, however, is judicial in nature and must be confined to the rules of reason and justice. It is also required all relevant factors are considered.
Applying the above to assess the applicant’s reason that the delay stemmed from ignorance of procedure, the court regarded the reasons as insufficient. This was predicated on the case law position that ignorance of law was not a good cause for an extension.
The court also considered the question of the legality of the impugned decision as a possible reason for an extension. It relied on the decision of Lyamuya Construction Company Ltd v Board of Registered Trustees of Young Women's Christian Association of Tanzania Civil Application No. 2 of 2010 which stated that a point of law must be of sufficient importance and apparent on the face of the record to compel the court to allow for an extension. The court thus reasoned that the alleged illegality was not apparent on the face of the decision. Hence, it concluded that since it would require a long-drawn process to decipher the illegalities, illegality was not a sufficient cause for granting an extension.
The matter involved a review application against an appeal court’s decision granted against the applicant.
The main question revolved around whether the grounds for a review application were satisfied. The court relied on rule 66(1) which states that a review application is entertained only if the decision under challenge ‘was based on a manifest error on the face of the record resulting in the miscarriage of justice.’ It also relied on the Charles Barnabas v Republic, Criminal Application No. 13 of 2009 and Chandrakant Joshughai Patel v Republic,  TLR 218 cases for the authority that a review does not challenge the merits of a decision but rather irregularities in the process towards the decision hence why it is not something that can be proved by a long-drawn process of learned argument. In addition, persuasive authority was drawn from the National Bank Of Kenya Limited v Ndungu Njau  eKLR case as authority for the proposition that a review cannot simply be raised on the basis that a different court would have reached a different conclusion on the same facts nor because the court misinterpreted the provisions of the law.
In application, the court reasoned that the grounds proffered by the applicant which included failure to prove lawful occupation of disputed land or the fact of that the disputed land belonged to the Village Council were in fact grounds of an appeal since they went into the merits of the decision.
The court therefore concluded that a review could not be raised on grounds of appeal and consequently struck out the application.
The matter involved an appeal against the decision of the High Court, a decision the appellant contends was arrived at under error of procedural law.
The main issue was whether the decision of the lower court was defective for its failure to afford the appellant her right to be heard. The court relied on case law to establish that it is necessary to afford a party a fair hearing upon making an adverse decision. It accepted the position in Scan - Tan Tours Ltd v the Registered Trustee of the Catholic Diocese of Mbulu Civil Appeal No. 78 of 2012 that when an issue that is pivotal to the whole case is introduced the parties should be given a chance to address the matter before the court. In addition, the court relied on the Rukwa Auto Parts and Transport Ltd v Jestina George Mwakyoma Civil Appeal No. 45 and Abbas Sherally and Another v Abdul Fazalboy Civil Application No. 33 of 2002 cases as authority for the proposition that failure to allow for the right to be heard constituted a breach of natural justice, a fundamental constitutional right.
The court reasoned that the trial court had failed to uphold the appellant’s right to be heard when it arrived at its decision and therefore violated a constitutional right. Hence, the court concluded that the decision could not be allowed and consequently nullified the impugned decision.
The matter involved a dispute over an order of suit property sale as a remedy for breach of a loan agreement granted by the trial court against the appellant.
The first question was whether the responded had paid the whole stipulated loan amount to the appellant. Assessing the evidence in the record from the trial court, the court reasoned that the trial court’s assessment had failed to evaluate crucial evidence that showed doubt in the respondent’s claim that the whole stipulated amount had been paid. The court thus concluded that the evidence indicated that the responded had failed to fully honor its performance obligation. As a result, the responded could not pursue the remedy of obliging the appellant to transfer the property for failure to repay the loan.
The second issue concerned the right to mesne profits (i.e. profits received by tenant in wrongful possession and which are recoverable by the landlord) by the appellant and the amounts due. The court did not dwell much on the question of entitlement, instead accepting the trial court’s finding of indisputable occupation and rental collection by responded as a basis together with the fact that responded could not justify the occupation.
The court thus concluded that mesne profits were owed but order that they be set-off to the amount of the loan that the appellant still owed. The decision of the trial court was therefore set-aside and appeal allowed.
Aggrieved by a High Court decision concerning a dispute with the respondent, the applicant sought leave to escalate the matter to the Court of Appeal. The High Court summarily rejected the application without notice to the parties and prior to the set-down date of the hearing.
The appellate court was wholly convinced by the applicant’s main contention: that the High Court judgment was impugnable because the parties had not yet been heard at the time it was given. Outlining the basic tenets of the audi alterem partem principle, the court affirmed that courts are obligated to afford the parties a full hearing before determining the disputed matter on merit.
The appellate court invoked its revisional powers under section 4(3) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, setting aside the High Court’s decision and directing it to rehear the application.
The respondent sued the appellant for general damages and restoration of the value of certain of its properties, arising from their sale at a public auction, prompted by a warrant of distress issued under the Income Tax Act. The High Court found that the respondent bore no tax liability to the appellant at the time the warrant was issued, and consequently that the vehicles were unlawfully distrained and sold, before making an award of damages, interest and costs of suit in the respondent’s favour.
On appeal, the tax authority successfully challenged the High Court decision on the grounds of jurisdiction. It contended that the relevant tax legislation (primarily the Income Tax Act, 1973) had established fora to preside over tax disputes at the first instance. As the respondent had failed to exhaust these internal statutory remedies before launching court proceedings, the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter. The court had ousted the jurisdiction of the specialised fora designed for that very purpose.
Reiterating that jurisdiction may be raised by the parties or suo moto (by the court itself) at any stage of proceedings – even on appeal – the appellate court quashed and set aside the High Court’s decision and upheld the appeal.
The appellant sued the respondent for the allegedly unpaid balance of his retrenchment package. Proceedings at the High Court were adjourned several times and occurred before multiple presiding officers before a final judge made an order against him.
Noticing irregularities on the record of appeal, the appellate court focused on the competence thereof rather than the merits. The trial judge that made the order had failed to observe the relevant provisions of the Civil Procedure Code by neglecting to place on record the reasons why the matter had fallen unto his lap following several adjournments. The case law on the scope of this rule accounts for its importance in terms of judicial integrity and transparency. Moreover, the decree on record had been duly signed by neither the learned judge, nor the Deputy Registrar, as required by law.
These irregularities led the appellate court to exercise its revisional purview under section 4(2) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act to quash and set aside the High Court judgment, before remitting the matter to the same forum for a competent judge to adjudicate the matter de novo (afresh). No order was made as to costs.
In view of Rule 10 of the Tanzania Court of Appeal Rules, the applicant had to display good cause for a two-year delay in seeking to file an application for leave to appeal. Counsel for the respondents contended that two years was an unacceptably long deferment and that the applicant ought to have applied directly to the appellate court for leave within two weeks after the High Court rejected the application for leave to appeal. It was submitted that the applicant was required to account for each day of the delay-period, which he had not done.
The court, on the other hand, found that the many applications with which the applicant had been busy during the two-year period – albeit fruitless – offered some explanation for the delay. It found that as the respondent was still in possession of the property which formed the subject-matter of the dispute, no prejudice would be caused to it by permitting an application for leave to appeal. Moreover, the grounds that the applicant intended to raise – illegality and fraud – were of such import that they ought to be given an opportunity for airing before the court.
The application was granted.
The plaintiff won a tender for the supply of various medical supplies and equipment to be distributed by the first defendant. The framework agreement specified that the delivery thereof depended on ‘call off orders’, which were written instructions issued by the first defendant requiring the plaintiff to deliver stipulated numbers of medical supplies on specified dates.
When the first defendant unexpectedly deferred an order for additional supplies, the plaintiff incurred significant unforeseen costs with respect to the storage and security of the delayed goods. The plaintiff therefore instituted a claim against the first defendant for breach of contract.
The issues were common cause. First, whether the order of the goods as agreed was indeed deferred by the defendant. Secondly, whether the defendant delayed its payment for the goods delivered under the contract. These issues were simultaneously dispensed with, the court quickly finding on the evidence before it that the answer two both questions was affirmative.
The third issue, in light of this finding, was whether the defendant’s conduct amounted to a breach. This was also answered in the affirmative as the alterations made by the defendant were a departure from the specified dates and quantities required by the contract’s call off order protocol.
The establishing of loss on the part of the plaintiff to found its claim for damages emerged fourthly. That the record clearly demonstrated the costs incurred by the plaintiff – in the shape of storage and security fees, bank interests and charges from the manufacturer for delayed acceptance of goods – rendered this issue swiftly resolvable by the court.
The fifth issue concerned the determination of relief. The plaintiff was awarded a penalty for delayed payments and further general damages.
Judgment was accordingly entered for the plaintiff.
The essence of the suit was an alleged unjustified refusal by the first defendant to berth resulting in alleged loss to the plaintiff and attaching demurrage charges.
The issue was whether the first defendant deliberately refused to berth a ship, and the court found in the affirmative. The court went on to look at if the refusal was justified. The court found that the master’s refusal to berth was based on unfounded grounds resulting in a two week delay. It was on that basis that the court held that the first and second defendants had not been wrongly sued.
The other issue was whether there was delay in offloading the consignment and whether the plaintiff suffered economic loss. These losses were in a form of demurrage charges, drop in sales as a result of closure of the factory, salaries to workers and bank charges. The court relied on the principle of general damages which states that damages in law presumes follow from the type of wrong complained of. General damages do not need to be specifically have been sustained.
In the result, the suit succeeded and the plaintiff was awarded damages.
The appellant contended that the respondent had wrongly rejected the deductibility of bad debts which the appellant believed warranted to be written off.
The appeal centred on the identification and interpretation of provisions governing losses arising from bad debts which are deductable for income tax purposes.
The court reiterated that it was bound to apply plain language of a statute to give effect to the intention of the legislature. It went on to state that statutes are to be read as a whole in context, and, if possible the court is to give effect to every word of the statute.
The intention of the legislature was to devote the area of the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 2004 (ITA) covering sections 20 to 26 for purpose of providing guidance to tax payers like the appellant. In other words section 25(4) and 25(5) (a) of the ITA shows one gets the impression that in the preparations of its tax accounts to be assessed by the respondent, the appellant was given the opportunity to indicate therein, what debt claim had in the appellant's accounting, become a bad debt ripe for deduction by the respondent.
The court pointed out that the appellant did not discharge its evidential burden to prove that it complied with any one of the two options the appellant claimed to have complied with under section 25 (5) (a) of the ITA.
It was for the above mentioned reasons that the appeal was dismissed.
The appellant, a limited liability company dealing with the business of production and supply of natural gas, was involved in a tax dispute with the respondent.
The main issue for determination was whether or not the tribunal erred in upholding the board’s interpretation of s17 of the Income Tax Act (ITA) thereby agreeing with the disallowance by the respondent, of depreciation allowance sought to be deducted by the appellant from the income.
The court held that a person is entitled to depreciation allowance only upon meeting the two conditions stipulated in s17 of the ITA. The depreciable assets must be owned and employed in the production of the income in question.
The court stated that although the expenditure incurred in the production of the income from the business of natural resource prospecting, exploration and development shall be treated as if it were incurred in securing the acquisition of an asset, hence entitling the person to depreciation allowance on that asset, such an asset must have been in production of the income. The deduction of depreciation is based on capped life of the asset as from the first year of the production of the income.
In the result the appeal was dismissed as it was devoid of merit.
The issue was whether the eviction of the plaintiff from her house was a result of any wrongful and/or fraudulent order by the defendant.
The plaintiff's suit was founded on the tort of misfeasance in public office. The tort of misfeasance in public office had two forms, namely (i) cases where a public power was exercised for an improper purpose with the specific intention of injuring a person or persons, and (ii) cases where a public officer acted in the knowledge that he had no power to do the act complained of and that it would probably injure the claimant
The court held that the plaintiff had to prove that the first defendant exercised his power in execution of the decree in the matter for an improper purpose with the specific intention of causing injury to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff however, as held by the court, failed to discharge her burden of proof required of her that the first defendant made any wrongful or fraudulent order resulting into evection of the plaintiff from her house in execution of a decree in case. Simply stated, the evidence led by the plaintiff was too insufficient to discharge a burden of proof on the tort of misfeasance in public office.
In the result, the plaintiff's evidence alleging fraudulent acts fell short of the standard required and the suit was dismissed.
The appellant appealed the decision of the trial court to rely on an affidavit of a court process server, having held that service was properly done. The prime issue for determination was whether the appeal was meritorious.
Order V Rule 16 of the Civil Procedure Code provides that where the serving officer delivers or tenders a copy of summons to the defendant personally or to an agent or other person on his behalf he shall require that person to sign an acknowledgement of service, if refuses to sign the acknowledgement the serving officer shall leave a copy thereof with him and return the original together with an affidavit stating that the person refused to sign the acknowledgement) that he left a copy of the summons with such person and the name and address of the person (if any), by whom the person on whom the summons was served was identified.
The court held that these specifications were not indicated in the process server's affidavit and the trial court never bothered to establish and ascertain if the service was properly done to the appellant to accord her the right to be heard.
The decision of the trial court giving rise to this appeal could not be allowed to stand on account of being arrived at in violation of the constitutional right to be heard. In the result the appeal was granted.
The plaintiffs instituted a land suit against the defendant praying the court declare that the defendant wrongly demolished the Madrassa building without any authority or order from the authorities. On the other side the defendant filed a written statement of defence stating that the suit was bad in law and ought to be dismissed, for lack of a paragraph invoking the court’s original jurisdiction, contrary to a requirement in law. Additionally, the defendant stated that the monetary claim pleaded was based on general damages and the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The main issue determined by the court was whether the court had pecuniary jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The court held that it was a mandatory requirement under Order VII Rule 1 (j) of the Civil Procedure Code that a plaint should contain a statement on the monetary value of the subject matter. This was not only for the purposes of determining courts' pecuniary jurisdiction, but also for assessing the court fees. Therefore, the failure by the plaintiffs to indicate in the plaint a statement of the value of the subject matter of the suit had an effect on both the jurisdiction and the court fees.
To conclude the court held that it had no jurisdiction and thus had no need to proceed on and to deliberate on other points of the preliminary objection as its hands were tied.
The applicant sought an order for a temporary injunction against the intended sale of a mortgaged property pending final disposal of a suit pending. The applicant's complaint was that his inability to service the loan was a result of the respondent's freezing of his account which made it impossible for him to perform his obligations under the credit facilities agreement.
The main issue was whether the applicant had established sufficient grounds to have the temporary injunction granted.
The court held that there were certain preconditions which a litigant had to meet before the court exercised its discretion to grant an application; for example demonstration that the applicant stood to suffer irreparable loss requiring the court’s intervention before the applicant’s legal right was established and proof of greater hardship and mischief suffered by the applicant if the injunction was not granted than the respondent will suffer if the order is granted.
The court also held that the conditions set out must all be met. Meeting one or two of the conditions will not be sufficient for the purpose of the court exercising its discretion to grant an injunction.
It is settled law that courts will only grant injunctions if there is evidence that there will be irreparable loss which cannot be adequately compensated by award of general damages. The court concluded that particulars of irreparable loss had not been given for the court's exercise of its discretion in the applicant's favour and so the application was dismissed.