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 case concerned the difference between a claim for special and general damages. The court found that damages is a method by which courts offer monetary reparation to persons whose rights in contract law have been violated, as a means to restore them to the situation in which they would have been but for the violation. Thus, damages play an invaluable role in the capacity of courts to give solatium (compensation or consolation) to the parties. Therefore, the claim for damages will be premised on the cause or causes of the violation and the consequences attached. The court found that in order to succeed with a claim for damages the plaintiff must satisfy the court with credible proof that there has been a breach, giving rise to the cause of action.
The plaintiff claimed loss of labour, unrefunded deposits and administrative expenses in its claim for damages, constituting special damages. While general damages are presumed by the law from the invasion of a right, special damages refer to the particular damage suffered by a party beyond that presumed by law from the mere fact of an invasion of a right and must be proved strictly by evidence. Thus, if a plaintiff does not specifically plead his loss and prove it, he cannot succeed in a claim for special damages.
The appeal succeeds in part.
The case concerned the parameters for determination when faced with a second appeal, as well as the elements to establish a plea of res judicata.
It was found that there are 4 instances when concurrent findings can be interfered with namely: 1) where the findings of the trial court are unsupported by evidence on record or where reasons in support of the finding are unsatisfactory, 2) where a principle of evidence has been improperly applied, 3) where the findings are based on a wrong proposition of law, and 4) where the finding is inconsistent with crucial documentary evidence on record.
In the second appeal it was argued that the matter was res judicata. Thus, that the matter has already been determined between the same parties before a competent court. The essential elements to establish for a plea of res judicata are: 1) there has been an earlier decision on the issue, 2) there has been a final judgment on the merits and 3) the same parties in both suits. The court found that the matter was not res judicata as although premised on similar facts with the same parties, the merits of the action differ. Furthermore, the court found that the decision of the lower court was perverse and unsupported by the evidence.
The Financial Intelligence Centre applied to the High Court to freeze the assets of the applicants who were being investigated for trafficking narcotic drugs. The applicant contended that the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction when it dismissed an application to dismiss the freezing of assets, because the law provided that this must be done for one year only; however in this case a year had since lapsed. It was also contended that the High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction to impose directions on how the case should be tried, and more broadly that the freezing of the account was in breach of the rules of natural justice.
The court held that the High Court acted contrary to the law when it did not exercise its jurisdiction to defreeze the assets, as the courts have supervisory jurisdiction. A year had lapsed and hence it was an error of law to not grant the order to defreeze the assets. The court which has supervisory jurisdiction has the power to defreeze assets if the one-year period has lapsed.
The respondent sought to introduce a new ground of appeal before the Supreme Court and the appellate court without doing so before the trial court.
The court considered whether the new ground of appeal relating to the regularity of the sale of shares belonging to the respondent’s deceased father could be raised as part of the respondent’s case.
The court held that a party is not permitted to raise on appeal an issue that they failed to raise during the trial.
Upon examining the rules regulating appeals, the court stated that r 8(8) does not override r 8(7) and that the court has discretion to whether to allow the introduction of a new ground or not. The Supreme Court stated that in the interests of justice and permission from the Constitution, it would give a ruling on the new ground. The court was of the view that the trial court had already made a ruling regarding the regularity of the sale of shares and that this ruling covered the the new ground that was being introduced.
As a result, the appeal had no merit and was dismissed.
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.
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
This issue was whether the Minister of Finance (applicant) has powers to intervene where the respondent's (Oak Bay Investments) bank accounts were being closed. In deciding the case, the court employed the Superior Court Act 10 of 2013 (the act) which empowers the court to enquire into and determine any rights and obligation a person can claim.
The court held that the enquiry envisaged by s21(c) of the act encompasses a two-legged enquiry. The court must be satisfied that the applicant is a person interested in an existing, future or contingent right and whether the case is a proper one in which to exercise its jurisdiction.
The court ruled that there is no statute that empowers a minister to intervene in a private bank client dispute. Banks can terminate a relationship with a client at their own discretion. It observed that there was no uncertainty in regard to the relief sought by the applicant as there was a court precedent relating to relief being sought. The court held that the Minister of Finance through his counsel knew very well that he has no power to intervene. The court ruled that it is not obliged to grant the order sought by the minister because there was no uncertainty in regard to the legal question. It ruled further that to allow the relief sought would breach the principal of separation of powers as it will amount to judiciary to stray into domain of the executive.
The issue was whether it would be just and equitable to wind up the respondents in terms of s 81(1)(c)(ii) and s 81(d)(iii) read with s 157(1)(d) of the act on the grounds that executive directors of the first respondent unconsciously abused the corporate personality of the second respondent by acting unlawfully. The other issue was whether the minister had locus standi (the right or capacity to bring an action) to bring the application.
The court held that it was just and equitable to wind up a company if the company is conducting unlawful activities and where there is a deadlock between the parties. Further, that s 157 extends locus standi to a broad range of people.
The court found that there were just and equitable grounds to wind up the first respondent because there was a deadlock between the parties, unlawful misappropriation of public funds and non-disclosure. In that light, also wind up the second respondent because its existence depended on that of the first respondent. The court, also, found that the minister, as a member of the executive, had established the necessary locus standi to bring the application in the public interest in terms of s 157(1)(d).
Accordingly, the court granted the final liquidation and ordered that the costs of winding up include costs of the application.
The court considered whether a Financial Services Provider (FSP) as regulated according to the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act (FAAIS) was negligent by advising the plaintiff which led to a loss of two million Rands. Further, if the second defendant was liable to indemnify the first defendant for professional negligence considering the exclusion clause in the insurance contract.
The court held that s 16 of FAAIS requires that an FSP act honestly, fairly with due skill, care and diligence. Further that the FAAIS Code of Conduct requires professionalism, in the interest of the public. In the case of an insurance contract, the court held that an exclusion clause might make proper commercial sense, be consistent with and not repugnant to the purpose of the contract.
The court concluded that the defendant did not act in accordance with expectations of an FSP, the defendant was negligent and dishonest. Further, the purpose of the insurance contract was to indemnify the insured for professional negligence; the exclusion interpreted restrictively cannot be applicable in the case.
The defendant was ordered to pay damages of two million Rands plus interest and second defendant to indemnify the first defendant.
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.
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 court considered the conditions to grant a temporary injunction.
The application was brought by the applicants as a means to prevent the respondent from alienating and disposing of the land mortgaged by the applicants.
The court found that the conditions for the grant of a temporary injunction are: 1) show a prima facie (meaning on the face of it) case with a probability of success, 2) irreparable harm will be suffered without the possibility of adequate compensation for damages, and 3) a balance of convenience.
The court held that the grant of a temporary injunction is an exercise of the courts discretion as a means to maintaining the status quo until the question to be investigated is tried on the merits, and disposed of in finality.
The court found that the applicants hadn’t set out a prima facie case and the application lacked merits. However, as a result of procedural errors, the court found that a conditional injunction could be granted.
The applicant instituted a civil suit against the respondent in 2013 in a lower court. This suit was in relation to a consulting and ICT support services fees provided by the applicant for the respondent. With the applicant having not taken any step to prosecute the matter since 2013, the respondent applied to have the suit dismissed for want of prosecution. The court accordingly dismissed the suit.
In this court, the applicant sought an order to reinstate this civil suit and set aside the dismissal. The respondent contended that the applicant’s failure to take steps to prosecute the suit against the respondent for over three years, was justification for dismissal of want of prosecution. Furthermore, the applicant had not shown any justification for failure to take these requisite steps.
The respondent thus claimed that this application would prejudice him as he had been burdened by the suit since 2013.
This court held that the reinstatement of this civil suit would indeed prejudice the respondent. The application was dismissed on the grounds that it defeats the defence of limitation (as the claim or suit proceeded out of time) available to the respondent.
Trademark – Infringing mark resembles with the plaintiff’s mark – Infringement proved
The plaintiff supplier sued the defendant – its Local Technical Representative (LTR) in accordance with the National Drug Authority Act for the distribution of pharmaceutical products – for breach of contract. The defendant failed to pay the plaintiff for the assorted products it supplied. The plaintiff consequently claimed for loss of income, damages, interest and costs of suit. The defendant lodged a counter-claim alleging that the plaintiff/first counter-defendant had breached the memorandum of understanding concluded between the parties and had, through various means, attempted to cripple the defendant’s/counter-claimant’s enterprise. It alleged further, as the basis of its challenge to the legality of the arrangement between the first and second counter-defendants, that the just-mentioned parties had colluded in this endeavour so as allow the latter to become the new LTR.
The defendants/counter-claimants successfully raised the procedural bar of res judicata – which prohibits judicially-decided matters from being heard afresh a second time – concerning the plaintiff’s claim, given that the matter of their indebtedness thereto had been resolved in the settlement of antecedent winding-up proceedings. To what extent ought the defendant’s/counter-claimant’s challenge have been raised as part of the previous lawsuit? Suggesting that res judicata was applicable to both parties’ claims, the court nevertheless considered the counter-claimant’s’ case in respect of the first and second counter-defendants and found no measure of illegality or bad faith on the evidence. The counter-claimant was additionally time-barred from seeking review of the National Drug Authority’s decision over the LTR change.
The plaintiff’s suit and defendants’ counter-claims were accordingly dismissed with costs.
The plaintiff contested the validity of the sale and transfer of its property by the first defendant, alleging the transaction was tainted by illegality and fraud. The mortgaged property was auctioned in a public sale pursuant to the terms of the credit facility agreement concluded between the parties.
The contract permitted that the first defendant could execute the property without application to a court if the plaintiff defaulted on payment. In accordance with this provision, the first defendant advertised and sold the plot in a public auction to the second defendant who made the purchase in good faith.
The plaintiffs challenged the first defendant’s actions on several grounds with no success before the High Court. It was argued that, because the sum advanced by the first defendant fell marginally short of the anticipated amount, it did not have to perform its obligation under the contract to pay the stipulated installments, despite having received and utilised the sum advanced by the first respondent.
The court dismissed this argument along with further technical attacks to the alleged unlawfulness of the advertisement of the auction, the sale agreement’s adherence to statutory formalities, and the first defendant’s failure to ‘release’ the plaintiff from the mortgage following the sale of the property to the second defendant.
The judge found in favour of the defendants, ruling that the advertisement, sale and transfer of the property had occurred lawfully and did not offend any aspects of the parties’ agreement.
The issues before the court were whether the registrar erred in law when he did not exercise his jurisdiction to refer the matter to a judge for a final disposal of issues he had found as contentious in his ruling; whether the learned registrar erred in law when he unilaterally dismissed the matter without determining the contentious issues raised therein and whether it is in the interest of justice that the appellant is granted leave to tax its Advocate-Client Bill of Costs.
The court stated that the claims did not arise out of a single transaction and the best way forward for the applicant was to file an action (civil suit) to recover these various claims.
The court came to the conclusion that the application was for recovery of costs and the registrar had no jurisdiction to entertain a dispute between advocate and client as to whether costs or fees were due. Secondly it is alleged that the bill is illegal or arises from an illegal contract. The court upheld the registrar’s decision not to entertain the bill and refer the parties to a suit with the only question remaining of whether he ought to have referred the parties to the judge for trial of the suit. The court reiterated that the registrar reached the right conclusion.
The matter of recovery of costs was contentious and the registrar had no jurisdiction to entertain it.
The court dismissed the appeal.
The application was based on the fact that the applicant had been prevented by sufficient cause from filing a defence in a civil suit which according to the court had a meritorious defence that had a high chance of success.
The main issue was whether the default judgment issued by the lower court pursuant to failure to file a written statement of defence should be set aside.
The court reiterated that the burden is on the process server to indicate whether a principal officer or director or secretary of the corporation has been served or to indicate whether he or she was unable to establish who was being served. The serving officer, in this case, was simply quiet about who was served notwithstanding that there is a stamp of the applicant on the signature of the person served. Moreover, the provisions as to service support are a fundamental rule of justice which is that of fair trial. Fair trial includes due notice of the summons on the defendant or persons sought to be summoned to appear in court.
The court held that due to the fundamental requirements of service of process on the secretary, director or other principal officer of the company, the default decree and judgment was set aside. The court held that civil procedure rules makes it necessary to identify the person served in the corporation sufficiently to fulfill the requirements for service on a corporation.
In this case the applicant wanted a writ of mandamus to compel the first respondent to pay the outstanding amounts with interest as ordered from the High Court. This case emphasizes that there must be a clear right in order to use a mandamus.
The court held that in order to obtain a writ of mandamus the following must be established: (1) a clear legal right and a corresponding duty in the respondent; (2) that some specific act or thing which the law requires that particular officer to do has been omitted to be done by him; (3) lack of any alternative, and (4) whether the alternative remedy exists but is inconvenient, less beneficial or less effective or totally ineffective.
The rights of the party seeking the writ of mandamus must not be doubtable. The court was not satisfied that the issues regarding the interest to be awarded and the amount due where properly determined. The court found that the applicant’s rights were doubtable. The court dismissed the application and advised the parties to seek an appropriate intervention to give proper interpretation of the trial judge’s judgment.
The applicant is appealing the judgment in its favour from a civil suit it instituted against the respondent. The review was brought on the ground of mistake or error apparent on the face of the record.
The civil suit sought a declaration that the respondents’ auction of the applicants’ 6990 beds of sugar was unlawful, and the court held that it was. However, the court awarded damages for the sale 736 unaccounted bags instead of 6990 unaccounted bags, which was the evidence on record and finding of the court. The sales were in breach of s 57(2) of the East African Community Customs Management Act.
The respondents filed a notice of appeal against the judgment, and contended that there was no error apparent on the face of the record. The award for 736 bags was based on evidence in which the applicant acknowledged that the respondent had accounted for 6254 bags. It was held that the applicant was entitled to file an application for review pending the appeal by the respondent.
The issue for determination was whether there was an error or mistake apparent on the face of the record.
The court held that the judgment was reviewed to the extent that it was erroneous to order special damages for 736 bags, which number was correct. The correct order was the difference between the applicant’s claim and the amount at which the sugar was auctioned; not special damages. The court substituted the amount with the sum of the difference, which was approximate 190 million Ugandan shillings.
This case concerned an application for an injunction restraining the respondents from selling or enforcing a mortgage in respect of the applicant’s mortgaged properties, pending the determination of a civil suit.
A preliminary objection was raised that the second, third, fourth and fifth applicants’ application was not supported by affidavit evidence. The court held that the first applicant’s supporting affidavit and supplementary affidavit would remain intact, and the applicant’s case would survive. Striking out the second to fifth applicants would not do away with the substance of the application.
The grounds for granting an injunction are that the applicant must prove a prima facie case with a likelihood of success; the applicant is likely to suffer irreparable injury that would not be adequately compensated for by damages; and if the court is in doubt it will decide the matter on a balance of convenience. As regards the first ground the court held that there was no prima facie case or serious question to be tried that had the potential of avoiding realization of the outstanding loan amount. This ground was based on whether the contract between the applicant and first respondent was frustrated, in that the applicant was still awaiting payment for the petroleum products sold; the purchase of which was funded by a loan from the respondent. As a result, the applicant contended it could not repay the loan. Evidence showed that there was a delay in payment, and not frustration of contract.
The application for an injunction was dismissed.
The plaintiff brought an action for breach of contract, for the defendant to pay the balance of the money paid by the plaintiff to the defendant in terms of their contract, and for interest on the amount.
The sourt held that on the evidence the defendant failed to deliver all the sugar within the seven weeks. The defendants did not adduce any evidence to the contrary, and the plaintiff was entitled to refund of the money paid for the sugar. The issue was whether general damages ought to be awarded in addition to interest on the outstanding amount.
Section 50 of the Sale of Goods Act provided that the remedy for wrongful non-delivery was damages. The measure was the estimated loss directly and naturally resulting in the ordinary course of events from the seller’s breach of contract. General damages will usually be awarded to place the plaintiff in as close a position as possible they would have been had the injury not occurred. Where interest is awarded for deprivation of monies to be paid, then general damages will not be awarded in addition to interest. The award of interest would place the plaintiff in its original position.
The court held that the plaintiff did not adduce evidence of what loss was suffered to warrant an award of general damages. Interest was therefore awarded in lieu of general damages.
This was an action claiming monies allegedly siphoned from the plaintiff’s bank account with the participation and/or collusion of the defendant; and damages for the defendant’s breach of the fiduciary duty as branch manager. The defendant filed a counterclaim that his continued suspension and dismissal was unlawful.
The issues for consideration were whether the defendant caused financial loss to the plaintiff; whether the suspension and/or dismissal was lawful; and the available remedies.
Regarding the first issue, the court held that the suit rested on the allegation that the defendant kept 26 cheques. The court held that it was not proved that the defendant kept the cheques beyond the three days alleged by the plaintiff; however the court found that the defendant knew the cheques were kept beyond the three days. As a result, the defendant was jointly liable with a Mr Patrick Kigongo.
On the second issue, the court held that the plaintiff was entitled to suspend the defendant as he was charged with a criminal offence. Management may dismiss an employee who was facing criminal prosecution if their continued employment would prejudice the interests of the bank. However, the defendant was suspended without pay contrary to regulation 30 of the terms and conditions of service; and the termination was without notice of disciplinary action, without a right of defence, and was thus unlawful.
The plaintiff was awarded general damages. The defendant was awarded his full salary from the date of suspension until the date of termination.
This was an application for leave to appear and defend a summary suit brought under the provisions of Order 36 rule 1 and Order 52 rule 3 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
The main issue before the court was whether the applicants’ defence was genuine and in good faith to warrant the leave. The respondents raised a preliminary objection to the application claiming that the application was filed out of time. They also accused the first and fourth applicants of forgery and submitted that representation by the applicants’ counsel was illegal since she had signed the supporting affidavit.
The court held that the application was filed in time due to lack of evidence to prove a false endorsement or forgery of the filed application. The court relied on Rule 9 of the Advocates (Professional Conduct) Regulations SI 267 – 2 in holding that the rule was not violated since the court was addressed in written submissions and this reduced the likelihood of counsel for the applicants to appear as a witness in the case. The court also applied the principle of company law that shareholders are separate from the company and declared that there was a misjoinder of the first to fourth applicants.
In conclusion, the court held that the application succeeded since the applicants raised a plausible defence to the claim. Accordingly, the applicants were given an unconditional leave to file a defence against the respondent’s suit within 14 days from the date of the order.
The Uganda Land Commission transferred a
parcel of land to the first respondent in 2005,
which leased the land to the second
respondent. In 2006, the appellant wrote to
the Ugandan Land Commission and received
a lease offer for the same land that had
already been transferred to the first
respondent. Both the respondents and the
appellant have been issued a certificate of
title for the same property. In first instance,
the trial judge ruled in favour of the
respondents. The appellant then filed an
The appellant was dissatisfied with the
decision and orders of the court of appeal
hence this appeal on the grounds of the right of
appeal from the orders under arbitration and
conciliation, reliance on the commission of
inquiry report, decision to set aside the
decision of the high court.
The background is that the appellant had a
contract to construct an annex to the existing
Mbale Resort. The construction wasn’t
complete and the matter was referred to
arbitration and several orders and awards were
made. The arbitral award was contested and at
appeal, an objection on a point of law was
raised that there was no right of appeal as the
award arose out of arbitration.