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 considers the adducing of fresh evidence on appeal. The respondent had claimed title to a certain land. Dissatisfied by the High Court judgment; the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal. On appeal they sought an order granting them leave to adduce new evidence. The reasons being:
1. that this evidence showed that the disputed land had been acquired by the government and that the respondent lacked the required locus standi to institute this case;
2. in an action to protect acquired land, only the Attorney-General has the requisite standing to sue and the respondent can only sue if he had been granted leave to do so by the Attorney-General; and
3. that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to have heard the case.
The respondent contended that the documents now sought to be used as additional evidence are not of such a nature that would affect the jurisdiction of the court and that it was the appellants' choice then not to tender these documents.
This court agreed with the counsel for the appellants. In the judgment, the court found the documents entailing strong points which would likely affect the jurisdiction of the trial court.
Additionally, the issue of jurisdiction was found to be fundamental and could be raised at any stage of the proceedings (even for the first time in this court).
Thus, in the interest of justice. these documents could be tendered on appeal as fresh evidence.
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 applicants sought to interdict the respondents from applying the provisions of the Medicines and Related Substances Act (Medicines Act) and prevent them from seizing and detaining Playboy e-cigarettes and hookahs pending the outcome of part B of the application. A consignment of e-cigarettes belonging to the first applicant was seized by the first respondent. Part B of the application was a review of the decision by the respondents to amend Schedules 1, 2, and 3 of the Medicines Act.
The two issues in dispute were that the Medicines Act was being selectively enforced against the applicant as there had been no measures or steps taken in the past against other importers, distributors or retailers of e-cigarettes. Secondly, that the seizure of the consignment was not in accordance with the Medicines Act.
The respondents contended that selective enforcement took place due to capacity constraints. Whether or not the selective enforcement was constitutional depended upon whether there was a rational basis therefor. The court held that the selection was irrational and targeted the applicant for no objective reason. The means by which the respondent went about enforcing the Medicines Act against the applicant and no other retailer, distributor or importer was not connected to the governmental purpose of regulating e-cigarettes containing nicotine. The seizure of the consignment was set aside in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. The court held that there was no need to make a determination on the interpretation of the Medicines Act.
The application was granted with costs.
South African Airways (SAA) received government funding on four occasions (since 2007). The applicant contended that SAA’s operation was non-commercial, anti-competitive and prejudicial to other air transport services. The decisions to issue a R5.6 billion guarantee to SAA on 26 September 2012, and to extend the guarantee’s period, were the subject of the review. Applicant argued that the decision was unlawful and ultra vires of the Public Finance Management Act; violated the separation of powers; violated sections 7(2), 9, and 22 of the Constitution; irrational; procedurally unfair; and in violation of Comair’s legitimate expectations.
The court held that pronouncing on the legality of the first decision was moot as there would be no utility in the order or in pronouncing on the issues related to it. It was separate from the extended guarantee. Furthermore, the court found that it did not have jurisdiction to decide issues based on Competition Law. The court also held that it was not in its jurisdiction to decide on matters of policy, to which the decision to issue the guarantee amounted.
Due to the dynamic nature of the market, need for flexibility, and to intervene in the dire circumstances of SAA as a strategic asset, the court held that there was no basis for forming a legitimate expectation by the applicant. The court also held that the decision was rational as it considered all relevant factors and involved multi-level input from different governmental departments.
The application was dismissed with no order as to costs.
The appellant sought to raise a fresh issue not canvassed in the court below. This case illustrates the court’s willingness to grant leave to raise and argue a fresh issue to ensure that justice prevails.
The court considered whether the applicants should be granted leave to raise and argue fresh issues on law in their appeal. In analyzing the principles for granting leave to raise fresh issues on appeal, the court held that one major consideration is if further evidence is required. The court held that it was satisfied that the fresh issue would be erected on the existing evidence in the printed record.
The court also held that the fresh issues must constitute a substantial point of law which will materially determine the fortunes of the appeal. The court found that the application for leave to raise and argue a fresh issue of law had satisfied all the established principles or templates for the grant of leave.
The court gave the appellant 30 days to file their brief of argument in this appeal. The court upheld the appeal.
In this case, monies held by the appellant belonging to the Nigeria Customs Service were traced. An order nisi was served on the appellant as the fifth garnishee. This case illustrates how the garnishee proceedings do not avail the garnishee to attack a judgment that the judgment creditor and debtor have accepted.
The court considered whether the appellant should be granted leave to raise fresh issues in additional grounds of appeal. The court explained that garnishee proceedings were not a process employed by the garnishee to fight a proxy war against the judgment creditor on behalf of the judgment debtor. The court held that a decision of a court of law not appealed against is to be accepted by the parties and it remains binding on them other parties, including garnishees.
The court held that the appellant had prayed for leave to raise issues that this court did not have the benefit of the views of the court below. The court considered order 2 rule 12 of the Rules of the Court which provide that the court may exercise its discretion to accept fresh evidence. The court held that there was a mischievous purpose attached to the appellant’s application and no power in law inheres in the garnishee to fight the cause of a judgment debtor.
The court concluded that the cause of action available to the garnishee was quite limited and therefore the application in this case was an abuse of the court process.
The court dismissed the application with costs.
The main issue faced by the court in this matter was whether an appeal could be allowed to proceed when the notice of appeal is incompetent.
On the assertion that the notice was defective for failure to reflect names and addresses of the parties, the court was quick to dismiss the objection as baseless as the error was a mere irregularity which could not affect the hearing of the appeal on merits. It reasoned that a liberal interpretation must be followed thus non-compliance per se could not be a ground for nullifying a proceeding unless it could amount to a denial of justice. Since the requirement of endorsement of names and addresses was a measure of convenience and not mandatory, it could not render the notice invalid.
On the contention that the notice did not relate to any suit, the court acknowledged the presence of incongruities between record of appeal and the notice to an extent that there was no nexus between the two. Further, it observed the incompleteness of the record, defects which amounted to a failure in invoking the court’s jurisdiction. The court decried the applicant’s failure to remedy the above defects by way of motion on notice to the lower court, a defect it held to be fundamental and stems to the very root of the appeal process. The court thus held the appeal was effectively incompetent and therefore there was no jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
The respondents/plaintiffs had successfully approached a court seeking a declaration of rights asserting their bona fide title in respect of certain immoveable property. They further sought a permanent injunction against the appellant/defendant, who alleged a stronger claim to the property, barring its interference therewith.
The appellant appealed the factual findings of the trial court, which the Court of Appeal found were substantiated by the evidence on record. Absent any evidence of perversity in its factual conclusions, its findings were deemed reliable on appeal.
The respondents adduced evidence which met the criteria – from the instructive methodology of the Supreme Court – for the proof of declaration of title to land. They showed that the property had been lawfully conveyed to their grandfather and fallen unto them by succession, after which time they consistently exercised possession and ownership rights thereover. The appellant adduced insufficient evidence to establish his contestations of historical ownership to the property having accrued to his family via crown grant, as well as his own roots of title.
The appellant/defendant unsuccessfully tried to raise estoppel on the grounds of res judicata, alleging that the matter had already been heard by the Lands Registry Court. The appellate court made an adverse finding on the basis that the parties’ dispute had been incomprehensively ventilated before that authority and so res judicata could not apply.
The appeal was dismissed.
The subject-matter of this appeal concerned the enforceability of an English court order on the parties’ dispute. The first and second respondents argued in the court below that the appellant and third respondent were in breach of the order of a lower court, and so they sought an order restraining its enforcement. The trial judge admitted a copy of the English court’s ruling but made further other orders affirming the subsistence of the lower court ruling which led the appellant to lodge an appeal on multiple grounds.
Regarding the main appeal, the court endorsed the first and second respondents’ argument that the third respondent ought to be compelled to observe the subsisting order of the lower court. It affirmed the inherent power of the court to act where an existing court judgment is flouted to uphold the integrity of the judiciary. Such an issue may be raised by either party orally, by formal application, or raised by the court itself.
Although the appellant was not part of the suit and lacked the requisite legal standing without formal application, that it was a beneficiary of the English court’s order meant that the trial judge was justified to restrain it from enforcing the order. However, the appellant had been incorrectly found to be jointly liable with the third respondent for flouting the judgment of the court below, so it experienced some success on this count.
On the challenge of the trial court’s jurisdiction to make one of its pronouncements, the appellate court found that the judge had unlawfully addressed the substance of a forthcoming application. This violated the well-established principle that a court must make its findings and orders on the same grounds of argument it has received from the parties. This issue was therefore resolved in the appellant’s favour.
Overall, the appeal was meritorious and allowed in part.
Administrative law – judicial review- determining whether and administrative body acted ultra vires
The court considered whether the failure to omit the court name in a notice of motion and error in arrangement of parties invalidated the application.
The court held that a notice of appeal is the foundation and any defect to it renders the whole appeal incompetent. In that regard, to validly invoke the jurisdiction of a Court of Appeal, it must be shown that the decision appealed against arose from the courts listed in s 240 of the Constitution.
The court found that the particulars of the claim did not invoke the jurisdiction of the court of appeal which is a material defect. Moreso, cannot be cured by an amendment. Therefore, the court was not able to grant the reliefs claimed.
The court accordingly dismissed the application.
The application was lodged as a response by the applicants (General Legal Council) to a decision of the Court of Appeal setting aside orders granted to them allowing for the suspension of the respondent from legal practice. The applicants sought leave to appeal against this decision.
In response, the court began its adjudication from the position that a special leave application is not concerned with substantive issues but rather with whether it satisfies the case law principles that there must either be (a) a prima facie error on the face of the record, or (b) a general legal principle arising for the first time, and or (c) that the Supreme Court decision on the appeal would be advantageous to the public.
The court assessed the grounds propounded by the applicants which in essence included allegations of fundamental errors that go to jurisdiction and which a determination by the Supreme Court would be advantageous to the public. The court reasoned that these issues were so important that a decision on them would have a public good. It therefore decided to allow the application.
This case concerned the reversal of a judgment handed down in this court by a single judge in terms of article 134(b) of the 1992 Constitution. Furthermore, the order handed down was non-executable and that the court erred in ordering the suspension of a non-executable order. Article 134 (b) prescribes what a three-judge panel may do after hearing an application brought by a party who is aggrieved with the decision of a single judge. The court considered whether a three-judge panel should apply the conditions applicable by an appeal or a review or a combination of the two. It was found that an application of this nature couldn’t be treated as an appeal since the full record of appeal will not have been placed before the court. It was therefore found that it should be treated as a special review, considering all factors and merits of the case. Therefore, all rules on review should largely apply. The court found that where there is no executable order from the decision of the court below, this court cannot make an order to stay execution. The court found that the decision by the single judge did not disclose what factors were taken into consideration to enable him to conclude that it was fair to grant the application. Thus, the record did not disclose any special circumstances. Application granted.
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 applicant commenced litigation but it was soon discovered that his legal representative did not have a valid solicitor’s licence. In an earlier Supreme Court decision in the same matter (Korboe v Amosa (J4/56/2014) GHASC 10 (21 April 2016) it was held that a lawyer cannot practice law for as long as they do not have a licence, and any process to commence court proceedings are null and void. The applicant prayed for review of that judgment because it caused injustice and there is no requirement that a person engaging or consulting a lawyer must be satisfied that he must have a valid licence. The court reiterated that Supreme Court decisions can only be reviewed if there are exceptional circumstances or there is critical evidence that was not available at the time of the appeal and not reasonably discovered. In other words, there should have been an error of law on the part of the court. In this case, the court held that even though the applicant was not aware of the lawyer not having a licence and the law doesn’t require him to inquire, the fact that the lawyer endorses the writ and court process renders it legally incomplete and null. It was held that the applicant failed to show an error of law or miscarriage of justice.
The Supreme Court was approached to review a clarificatory decision previously delivered by the Supreme Court’s ordinary bench.
First the court considered whether it had jurisdiction to review its previous decision. It relied on rule 54 of Supreme Court Rules 1996 (C.I 16) which grants it the power to review decisions under certain circumstances. It rejected the argument that a clarificatory decision is not a decision under rule 54. The court therefore concluded that it had the power to review its previous decision.
The court then had to consider whether exceptional circumstances existed and have resulted in miscarriage of justice. It held that where a decision fails to consider a statute, case law, fundamental principle or procedure, exceptional circumstances which justify review of the decision exist. In this case, the clarificatory decision was based on a repealed statute and failed to consider the applicable statutory provisions. Consequently, court reviewed and rectified its previous decision to align it with the correct statutory provisions on the computation of interest on judgement debts.
The appellant appealed to the Supreme Court because the lower court did not inquire into the scope of the arbitration agreement embodied in the main agreement executed by the parties, contrary to the provisions of section 6(2) of Act 798.The court held that the separation agreement provided categorically that any dispute that related to the validity of the agreement itself or the arbitration embodied therein had to be determined by arbitration. The decision to refer certain disputes to arbitration as indicated in the separation agreement arose from the consent of the parties the moment they appended their signatures to the agreement. Therefore, it had complied with the separation agreement.
Secondly, the applicant filed for appeal after three months instead of twenty-one days and did not advance any reason to explain why it failed to comply with the rules of the court. The court noted that it had the discretion to entertain such applications but had to question whether upon the facts, the discretion could be exercised in applicant’s favour. The court outlined the prerequisites for the grant of special leave to appeal as follows: an applicant who applies to the Supreme Court for special leave under article 131(2) must satisfy (i) why he did not avail himself/herself of the usual rights of appeal provided, and (ii) why he should be granted such special indulgence. The court concluded that the applicant did not advance any reason why it failed to resort to the normal appeal procedure and dismissed the appeal.
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 matter dealt with a special leave to appeal application against the Court of Appeal’s decision that an appeal from the General Legal Council without lodging a Notice of Appeal to the Council was invalid.
In responding to the above question, the court relied on Article 131(2) of the Constitution and the Dolphyne case (Dolphyne (No.2) V Speedline Steveddoring Co. Ltd [1996-97] SCGLR) to find that special leave applications are discretionary and are not fettered by rules of practice nor legislation. The exercise of this discretion depended on whether, given the particular case and validity of the reasons given, leave should be granted in favor of applicant to further the interests of justice and or the public good. The court, in exercising its discretion, established that the General Council was not a lower court. Thus the court concluded that the requirement for lodging a notice was not applicable. Moreover, it reasoned that it would be in the public interest if a Supreme Court was given an opportunity to pronounce on appeals from the General Council. It thus concluded that the court below had erred in its decision resulting in the overriding of the applicant’s substantive right of appeal. The court thus granted the special leave application.
This was an application for a review of the unanimous judgment of the ordinary bench of the Supreme Court which allowed an appeal filed by the respondents, in holding that failure to name foreign beneficiaries (per order 2 r. 4(2) of the Civil Procedure Rules) rendered the application void.
The court determined whether the application had passed the threshold of a review application. They applied the rule that review jurisdiction is not meant to be resorted to as an emotional reaction to an unfavorable judgment. In making the holding, the court considered the effect of noncompliance and held that the decision of the ordinary bench was not made through lack of care or misapplication of well-established case law. Accordingly, the court held that the circumstances of the case did not satisfy the requirements for review and dismissed the application. However, the dissent judgment faulted the decision to penalize parties on account of procedural blunders especially when the blunders can be easily cured by amendment.
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 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.