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.
This is a second appeal by the appellant, both
his original suit in the High Court and his
subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeal
having been dismissed. The background is
that the appellant thought to borrow money
from the respondent and gave security as his
land, the issued cheque bounced and the
respondent used the security to secure a
mortgage from the first respondent which he
failed to pay and the first respondent sold the
land. The appellant was evicted and the
business closed and the appellant alleged
fraud but was unsuccessful both at high court
and court of appeal hence this appeal on the
grounds of the sale of land using the power of
attorney, the validity of the mortgage on the
appellants land, holding on fraud, improper
consideration of the evidence on record and
complete disregard of the facts.
The applicant in this application sought for an order staying the execution of the
judgment of the court of appeal until the determination of the appeal to this court, and
that costs of the application be provided for.
This is a second appeal from the Court of
Appeal which dismissed the appellant’s
appeal against the judgment and orders of the
High Court. The background is that the
second respondent obtained a loan from UCB
and they were given a tractor and a trailer
which was attached and the first respondent
sued to recover on the claim that it had been
wrongly attached. The trial court and the court
of appeal dismissed the suit hence this further
appeal on the grounds that the sale and
auction was unlawful, the mode of recovering
the property and the holding that the plaintiff
wasn’t a bonafide purchaser for value.
This case considered whether the appellant had obtained the title of suit property by fraud. The court considered the grounds which would constitute fraud. It was found that fraud means actual fraud or some act of dishonesty. The court held that fraud must be proved strictly, the burden being heavier than on a balance of probabilities generally applied in civil matters. Accordingly, the fraud requires some act of dishonesty.
The court considered whether; the land occupied by the respondent was registered land, the grant of the lease was fraudulent, and estoppel is applicable.
The court held that s 31(1) of the Land Act gives security of tenure to a tenant on registered land. Moreso, the implications of the abolitions of statutory leases in terms of art 237 of the Constitution remains a grey area. The court also held that security of tenure protects a bona fide occupant 's interest. Also, under s 176 of the Registration of Titles Act, a registered proprietor is protected against ejectment except in certain cases including fraud. Further, to procure registration of title to defeat an unregistered interest amounts to fraud. The court also held that registration tainted with fraud does not give rise to the doctrine of estoppel.
The court found that respondent must continue occupation because they were in undisturbed possession and occupation before the 1995 Constitution. The abolition of statutory leases did not automatically extinguish such right. Also found that fraud was attributable to appellants because the grant and registration of suit land in the name of the second appellant was intended to defeat the unregistered interest of the respondent.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal with costs. Further ordered the first appellant to give due consideration to the respondent's application for a lease over the suit land including giving it a priority in the granting of the lease.
A dispute between the company and the bank arose in respect of a specimen signature card allegedly issued for Susan Margaret Howard Bristow (Susan) as a director of the company. The dispute arose because the signature of Dr. Alex Babitunga authenticating Susan's specimen signature card was apparently forged. Additional words written on the card, altering the previous arrangements with the bank requiring two signatures for authorisation of withdrawals, appeared without any initials, signatures, authentication or stamping by the person or persons who cancelled them. The bank permitted certain withdrawals from the company bank account in accordance with the instructions on the card; as opposed to the earlier instructions.
The respondent alleged that the appellant had acted in breach of its duty to the respondent as its customer and had been negligent in permitting the respondent’s accounts to be cleared of all the money in them without the respondent’s authority.
The issues were whether the lower court erred in law and in fact in not holding that the respondent was estopped from saying that Susan Bristow was not an authorized signatory to the respondent's account.
The court explained that the principles of estoppel provides that when one person has, by his or her declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true and to act upon that belief, neither he or she nor his or her representative shall be allowed, in any suit or proceeding between himself or herself and that person or his or her representative, to deny the truth of that thing. One of the conditions for the doctrine to apply is, therefore that the act or omission by the person against whom estoppel is to be set up, as a defense, must have been intentionally caused, in the instant case the fraud which the two courts below found had caused the appellant to act to its detriment believing it to be true was unknown to the respondent until the police report. The court held that the defense of estoppel was not available to the bank against the company because the respondent was unaware of Susan's fraudulent signatures on the cheques until the police investigation and report.
The court held that all documents concerning the respondent's accounts were in the possession and custody of appellant bank. Only the appellant knew and was responsible for entries on the bank accounts, it bore responsibility as the banker to what entries were made on those accounts without respondent's authority. The appeal was therefore dismissed with costs.
The matter involved a dispute as to whether there was a contract and in effect breach of contract.
The main issue before the court was whether there was a contract for sale of goods and in consequence whether there was breach. Citing trite law that there is no contract if there is no agreement on the essential terms of contract, the court established that the alleged contract did not mention the amounts allegedly guaranteed whilst the demand for payment itself was not linked to the telephone transactions. The court considered the definition of a proforma invoice and concluded the alleged contract was part of negotiations and was therefore an offer to treat. As there was no indication of agreement on the essential terms, there was therefore no contract and consequently no breach of contract.
In obiter, the court also dealt with the question whether special damages were rightfully awarded by the court a quo. Acknowledging special damages as damage in fact caused by wrong and the claim requirements for specificity of pleading and proof, the court concluded that the award of special damages was inconsistent as liability could not be imported on a non-existent contract.
The court thus concluded in favor of the appellant and allowed the appeal.
This appeal raises the question of admissibility of a document that was alleged to be a privileged document. The petitioner sought to have this document admitted as evidence, while the respondent argued that it should be excluded as the security of the state would be impaired.
The petitioner argued that that if this document was excluded, his constitutional right to fair trial would be violated. He further claimed that if the security of the state would be impaired by such conduct. Section 23(2) of the Constitution allows the court to hear the matters that touch on the security of the state, away from the public.
The respondent relied on s 121 of the Evidence Act. He claimed that this document relates to affairs of state and was therefore inadmissible without the consent of the head of department.
This court stated that when an act of Congress conflicts with constitutionally enshrined provisions; the Constitution prevails because it holds the paramount commands. Furthermore, it was held that the court that has the power to determine whether a matter falls within the exceptions or not. In order to do this, the state must produce evidence upon which the court can act. The state never did so.
The court examined the document in dispute and found it to relate to state security. However, the court overruled the respondent’s objection. The document was admitted as evidence in closed court.
The applicant approached the court to set aside the legal opinion and report of the first and second respondents’ respectively and in turn, the respondents challenged the validity of the application before the court.
The court considered whether the applicant was properly incorporated and whether it had locus standi to bring a petition before the court.
It was held that the applicant indeed did not have locus standi to petition the court to challenge the findings of the respondents due to not being properly incorporated.
The court found that the merger between the entities that formed the applicant was in contravention of both the Constitution and legislation regulating companies. The court held that the Constitution was violated on two occasions. Firstly, when an agreement was entered into with an entity controlled by the government without the approval of the Attorney-General. Secondly, when the entity controlled by the government decided to hold a minority shareholding in the company that assisted in incorporating the applicant, which had the effect of parliament not having control of the funds as required. Legislation regulating companies was not complied with since the requirement for incorporating a private company was not observed.
As a result, the preliminary objection raised by the respondents succeeded. The applicant did not exist in law thus it could not sue or be sued. No costs ordered as the applicant does not exist.
The court considered whether the appellant has a right in law to lodge the appeal.
The court held that there is no right of appeal against a decision of a court of competent jurisdiction unless that right is expressly provided for by statute. Further, an application brought to the High Court in terms of s 16(6) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act is final and not subject to appeal.
The court found that the facts of the subject of the preliminary objection to the arbitrator's decision, the application by the respondent to the high court and the decision thereof fall within the ambit of s 16 of the act, therefore there is no right of appeal against the decision of the high court. Further, even under s 34 of the act there is no right of appeal against the decision of the high court. Further, there was no right to appeal in the high court because respondent did not comply with time limits, thus nullifying the order.
Accordingly, the court found that the appellant had no right of appeal, parties were ordered to pay their own costs. Further, the appellant as the successful party in the arbitration entitled to costs of the high court and arbitrator.
The case was an application seeking to revive a consent judgment set aside by the registrar of the court.
The dispute emanated from an application by the respondent seeking an order to nullify registration of property in the name of the defendants (who are now applicants). The order was granted under an ex parte application because the respondents failed to respond to the suit. The respondents tried without success to appeal the judgment.
The respondents then filed a notice of appeal to the Appeal Court seeking to appeal against the order of the High Court dismissing the application. They also requested an interim order for stay of execution. The applicant (who is now the respondent) objected to the appeal arguing that it was late which was confirmed by the registrar. The respondents referred the matter to a single judge and pending the determination by the judge, the parties entered into a consent judgment which was endorsed by the registrar. The registrar later set aside the consent judgment which the applicants are now seeking to revive.
In deciding the case, the court held that there was no appeal before the single judge because the applicants filed the appeal late. The court ruled that the registrar has no jurisdiction to hear and dispose an appeal. It found that the registrar erred when he entered a consent judgment on a matter which was on appeal before a court. It further ruled that the consent judgment was null and void thus it cannot be revived.
The plaintiff sued the defendant state organ for the balance of payment for construction services rendered in respect of a government-owned school premises. It contended that the defendant had failed to pay the agreed-upon amount timeously; his sum claim was therefore the unpaid balance plus compound interest. The defendant contended that the plaintiff had been paid in full – the principal amount plus simple interest for the period of delay. As the agreement was unwritten, the court had to establish its terms. The determination of the type of interest was integral as the parties had not considered this at the time of contracting.
That the defendant was in breach due to its prolonged delay in effecting payment was quickly established by the court. Considering the nature and purport of contractual damages, it established that compound interest was apposite. Examining the plaintiff’s exhibits of standard industry lending rates sourced from the Bank of Uganda, the court determined the correct rate of interest at 22% p.a. and ruled in favour of the plaintiff. It held further that the award of compound interest sufficiently compensated the plaintiff for its restitutionary and expectation interests, thereby obviating the need for general damages.
Two applications where lodged by both parties. The first application sought the rejection of a lodged case on the ground that the defendant in the suit, described as ‘the board,’ was a non-existing person, with no capacity to sue or be sued. Immediately thereafter, the applicant lodged the second application where he sought leave to amend the initial suit by adding a Pastor Kayanja as a party to the suit, in addition to the board.
In its judgement this court held that the board did not exist in law. The application to add Kayanja was held to be an attempt to substitute a non-existing defendant and thus in reality there was no valid plaint in the suit. The reason being that a suit in the names of a wrong plaintiff or defendant cannot be cured by amendment (as the applicant attempted to).
Hence, the first application succeeded, and the second application was dismissed.
This was an application for an order that a writ of
mandamus doth issue ordering the Treasury
Officer of Accounts to pay the applicants.
When the application came up for hearing, learned
counsel for the respondent, raised an objection.
She argued that under rule 5 (1) of S. I. 11/2007,
an application for judicial review should be made in
a period of three months from the time when the
decision was made. According to her, the
impugned decision was made many years ago, so
the application is out of time.
The underlying dispute between the parties related to an entitlement of the appellants to a proper statement of account by the respondents. The question at issue was whether the order of the high court was appealable and if so, whether the appellants had made out a case for a two-state judicially controlled procedure, dealing first with the adequacy and second with the accuracy of the accounts.
In making a decision the court was guided by the principle that a judgment or order has three attributes, first, the decision made must be final in effect and not susceptible of alteration by the court of first instance; second, it must be definite of the rights of the parties; and third, it must have the effect of disposing of at least a substantial portion of the relief claimed in the main proceedings. The principles however are neither exhaustive nor cast in stone. An order may not possess all three attributes, but will nonetheless be appealable if it has final jurisdictional effect.
The court held that the order of the court a quo had effectively precluded the appellants from contesting the adequacy of the accounts, an issue that had been a bone of contention between the parties thus making the decision of the court a quo appealable. In the result, the appeal succeeded.
The respondent’s non-disclosure of the nature of a business conducted by a tenant on its insured premises was held to be material for the purposes of s 53(1) of the Short-Term Insurance Act. The court ruled that the failure to advise appellant of highly flammable materials being used to manufacture truck and trailer bodies on the property rendered the insurance contract void. The court found that a reasonable, prudent person would have viewed the disclosure of this information as relevant to the overall risk assessment, and that appellant had been induced into extending the cover.
The respondent unsuccessfully raised the defence of estoppel based on appellant’s failure to conduct a survey of the premises, at respondent’s request, to identify potential risks which could affect the policy. The court found that no misrepresentation could be shown on appellant’s part; estoppel was therefore not established.
Wallis JA concurred with the majority ruling but focused his reasoning on the practical and logical flaws in the respondent’s justification for its non-disclosure.
A claim by the appellant was repudiated by the respondent on the grounds that the deceased had misrepresented and failed to disclose to the respondent certain details of her pre-existing medical condition which materially affected the assessment of the risk under the policy by the respondent. The issue before the court was whether the deceased made a misrepresentation during the telephone conversation as well as materiality of any alleged misrepresentation or non-disclosure, does not arise in the absence of proof of the deceased’s pre-existing medical condition.
The court held that the respondent bore the onus to prove that the deceased had misrepresented herself to the respondent. The respondent also had to prove that the deceased had failed to disclose that she had received medical advice or treatment previously. There was however there was no clear understanding between the parties as to the evidential status of the contents of the hospital records. The court ruled that the respondent failed to discharge that onus to prove that the deceased did misrepresent herself as there was inadequacy and lack of clarity in the hospital records.
The court expressed that that the court a quo erred in concluding that it was not in dispute that the illnesses were noted correctly in the hospital records. The court also noted that the court a quo paid scant regard to the admissibility of the evidence as a result the parties had to file supplementary heads of argument.
Accordingly the court upheld the appeal.
This case dealt with a claim for wages of a ship’s crew members for having been kept hostage by Somali pirates. This case illustrated the similarities between Indian and South African maritime law.
The crisp issue before this court was whether at the time of the second appellant’s arrest at the respondent’s instance, there existed a maritime lien for crew’s wages entitling the respondent to arrest the second appellant by way of an in rem arrest in terms of s 3(4)(a) of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act. The court held that a maritime lien is a maritime claim that constitutes one of the bases upon which a claimant may found an action in rem. It also confers a certain preference in ranking of claims.
The court considered the two-pronged enquiry into the existence of a maritime lien, Firstly, on a prima facie basis, whether the respondent had established the existence and nature of the claims sought to be enforced in rem against the second appellant. Secondly, the court had to determine whether the respondent prima facie established claims which, by reason of their nature and character, were protected by maritime lien in South African law.
The court was satisfied that there was no obligation on the second appellant to pay crew’s wages as these payments. The court reasoned that there had been a supervening event that caused the fulfillment of the crew’s employment contracts impossible. Therefore, there was no claim for unpaid wages giving rise to a maritime lien enforceable by an action in rem. Accordingly, the court upheld the appeal and ordered that the deemed arrest be set aside.
The court considered whether the South African Breweries (SAB), a dominant manufacturer and distributor of beer products, engaged in anti-competitive behaviour, by securing distribution agreements which constituted restrictive horizontal, alternatively, vertical practices in terms of s 4(1)(b)(ii) and s 5(1) of the Competition Act 89 of 1998 (‘the act’).
The commission challenged the distribution agreements and alleged that the SAB had contravened s 4(1)(b)(ii) of the act as a result of the exclusive territories awarded to appointed distributors (ADs) for distribution, amounting to a market division. The relationship between SAB and the AD’s were considered to determine whether they were competitors as contemplated in the act.
In applying the concept of ‘characterisation’ the pivotal question is a) whether the parties were in a horizontal relationship; and if so, b) whether the case involved the division of markets as contemplated in the act.
The court confirmed that, the ADs could not be seen to be autonomous economic actors, independent of the SAB, and were not in a competitive relationship with one another. Further, the true relationship was primarily a vertical one, encompassing a horizontal component, flowing from the vertical arrangement. The agreements did not amount to lessened intra-brand competition, preventing rival distributors from succeeding in the distribution within the market.
The court held that, there was not enough evidence to support the contention that the agreement had the effect of substantially preventing or lessening competition in the market, thus, there was no diminished consumer welfare supporting the prevention of competition in the market. The appeal was dismissed with costs.
The Competition Appeal Court considered whether the appellant’s pricing on polypropylene (PP) constituted excessive pricing and hence contravened section 8(a) of Competition Act 89 of 1998 (the act).
In establishing the proper interpretation of excessive pricing, the court looked at s 8(a) read with s1(1)(ix), placing more emphasis on the phrase ‘economic value.’ It considered domestic and foreign decisions and arrived at the determination that the pricing standard to be assessed should be the actual sale price and not a hypothetical price.
Regarding the economic value costing assessment, the court underscored the need to take into consideration costs that include depreciated insurance values related to capital costs; the tax effects, capital reward charges and common costs.
The court also looked at the reasonableness of the sale price when taken in relation to the economic value. It held that for s 8(a) to apply the price should be higher than economic value and should bear no reasonable relation thereto.
Acknowledging that the evaluation is a value judgement, the court rejected the Competition Tribunal’s assessment arguing that prices above economic value are not per se unreasonable. Instead, it held that conscious of the low nature of the price mark-up, there was no justification for judicial interference as this did not constitute a substantial increase.
The court thus concluded that the price did not constitute excessive pricing as required by the act. The appeal was therefore upheld.
The court considered whether a licensing agreement concluded between the parties, granting certain rights for a period of 5 years, amounted to a merger in terms of s 12(1) of the Competition Act 89 of 1998 (the act).
The focus was on whether the transaction would lead to structural changes in the market, thus, whether there is a reasonable chance that the transaction could impact on a competitive market outcome. It was argued that the transaction amounted to a transfer of the second respondent’s business, thus an acquisition of control. The court considered what is the appropriate test for acquiring or establishing direct or indirect control over the whole or part of the business for another was. Thus, in line with USA academic Professor Herbet Hovenkamp’s ‘Hovenkamp test’, the component of the business which was transferred must have constituted part of the business of the transferor, which has now been placed under direct or indirect control of the transferee.
The court held that, there had been no transfer of productive capacity which would amount to the transfer of market share, indicating that the transfer of the business could not have taken place within the realm of the license agreement. The court ordered that the commission was to give a report ascertaining whether there had been a change of control, and if it had, then the matter was referred back to the tribunal for determination.
The court held that, there was nothing in the agreement which amounted to a merger as defined in terms of the act. Appeal upheld.
The appellants are the only producers of andalusite in South Africa. The appellants notified the competition commission (the commission) of an intermediate merger in terms of s13A Competition Act 89 of 1998 (the act), which the commission prohibited. The competition tribunal (the tribunal) confirmed that prohibition. The appellants appealed to the competition appeal court (‘CAC’) contending that the merger should have been permitted subject to tendered conditions.
The CAC held that the tribunal ought to have relied on the s12A test where:
(i) it determined at first whether merger is likely to substantially prevent or lessen competition ;
(ii) whether the merger can or cannot be justified on substantial public interest grounds by assessing the factors set out in s12A(3) of the act; and
(iii) if the determination in (i) is ‘no’, the tribunal must determine whether the merger can or cannot be justified on substantial public interest grounds.
The CAC concluded that the merger was anti-competitive as it would give rise to a monopoly market. Additionally, the merging parties failed to portray any pro-competitive gains or public interest considerations which justified the merger. The appeal was therefore dismissed.
The case is an appeal by Media 24 Property Ltd which owns Forum and Vista community newspapers distributed in Welkom town against a decision of the Competition Commission Tribunal (the tribunal) which found that the selling of Forum newspaper in Welkom was predatory in contravention of s 8(c) of the Competition Act (the act). The tribunal ruled that the Forum newspaper was priced below the average cost to the detriment of other newspapers. In order to reach its decision, the tribunal employed the Average Total Cost concept (ATC).
On appeal, the appellant was challenging the use of the ATC concept as an appropriate benchmark for determining predatory pricing under the act. The court held that there are two tests for determining predatory pricing under s 8(d)(iv) being the benchmark of marginal cost and the Average Value Cost (AVC). It ruled that in order for the respondent (the commission) to show that the conduct of the appellant was predatory in nature, it needed to establish that the appellant is the dominant firm involved in selling goods below the marginal or (AVC). The court found that the ATC standard cannot be used to measure predatory pricing. It ruled that the Average Avoidable Cost (AAC) was the appropriate cost benchmark to determine predatory pricing. In light of evidence provided by the parties, the court found that the respondent failed to prove that Forum’s AAC exceeded its revenue hence the appeal was upheld.
Competition – Shareholders agreement – Non-compete clause – Whether a violation of horizontal restraints under the Competition Act
This application was in relation to a court order that the Competition Appeal Court (the CAC) granted in June 2016. This order held that the agreement between the first and second respondents did not give rise to a merger within the meaning of s 12(1) of the Competition Act 89 of 1998 (the act).
In the current application, the core issue to be resolved was the proper interpretation of the order granted by the CAC. Furthermore, evidence was sought to be led with regards to the parliamentary hearing that was conducted on 7 December 2016.
The CAC held that this order was clear and unambiguous. Accordingly it was not open to the CAC to give it a fresh interpretation or to supplement its meaning.
With regards to the parliamentary hearing, the CAC held that an order which would empower the commission to conduct interviews with both Mr Naidoo and Ms Makhobo fell outside the scope of the order it granted in June 2016. However, since the transcript of the parliamentary hearings was a public document, it found it not to be an obstacle to have the commission examine this transcript. The CAC held that whatever information contained in this transcript may be employed by the commission in order to make a recommendation as to whether the agreement falls within the definition of merger in terms of the act.
Competition – Unlawful Competition – Collusive Tendering – appropriate penalty
The plaintiff applied to the court to enter judgment on admission for the plaintiff because the defendant materially admitted all the facts; and that the court should only be addressed on the issue of general damages and costs.
The court concluded that since the defendant in this case agreed to and admitted all the material facts in the plaintiff’s claim, there remained no other triable issues for the court to consider.
A ‘triable issue’ was defined as an issue that only arises when a material proposition of law or fact is affirmed by the one party and denied by the other; however the parties are bound by their pleadings and cannot be allowed to depart from them.
The court held that an admission has to be clear and unambiguous and must state precisely what is being admitted. Once an admission of facts is made, court may upon application make such order or file such judgment.
It is against this backdrop that the judgment on admission was entered.