The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The subject matter of this appeal was an allegedly defamatory letter published by the appellant bank, relating to the respondent. This letter was compiled by the second appellant who was the bank’s employee, directed to the respondent’s employer. The contents related the respondent's alleged indebtedness to the bank and sought their cooperation in recovering the debt. It later transpired that this letter ought to not have been sent, as there was in fact no debt as alleged.
The respondent then claimed that the letter was defamatory and instituted a claim for damages. The appellants counterclaimed and raised the defence of qualified privilege. The courts below entered judgments in favour of the respondent and awarded damages in his favour.
The question on appeal is whether the court below was right to have held that the defence of qualified privilege did not avail the appellants.
The appellants went to great lengths to show that the second appellant and the respondent had never met before the defamatory letter was written and argued that this fact rebutted the inference of actual malice. The respondent claimed that the second appellant was motivated by malice in writing the letter.
This court found that the finding of the court below that the appellants were actuated by malice was erroneous. On the basis that the pleading lacks malice as a requirement, the appeal was upheld.
Contract – limitation of liability clause – suing in delict to escape application of limitation of liability clause
Delict – wrongfulness – duty of care
The applicant brought a complaint against the defendants for contravening the market allocation prohibition of the Competition Act (the act) by entering into an ongoing agreement allocating market territory for the sale of locking products in both the Free State and Northern Cape. They sought to have the defendant’s conduct declared in contravention and consequently interdicted and charged with a 10% turnover administrative charge in respect of the contravention.
The first issue was whether the commission could allege market allocation for all products. Looking at the legislative powers of the commission, the Competition Tribunal reasoned that since the agreement’s subject matter covered all products the commission had authority therein.
The tribunal then considered whether the agreement was still ongoing after the coming into effect of the act and s 4(1)(b)(ii). It assessed the evidence and established that the defendants had not competed with each other since the entry into agreement until the time in issue and thus the agreement remained ongoing.
The final issue was whether the agreement’s rationale was in contravention of the section above. By looking at the ratio in American Soda Ash Corporation and Another vs. Competition Commission and Others  1 CPLR 1 (SCA) and The Competition-Commission and Pioneer Foods (Pty) Ltd, Case No: 15/CR/Feb07, the tribunal highlighted that s 4(1)(b)(ii)’s market allocation prohibition is a per se prohibition and thus there can be no justification for the conduct.
The agreement was held to be ongoing and in contravention of s 4(1)(b)(ii).
This case developed common law to hold an employer liable where one of its employees is sexually harassed by a senior employee.
The court considered the employer’s liability in tort for sexual harassment of its junior employee by a senior employee. The court held that the first and second respondent were jointly and severally liable for the damages suffered by the plaintiff as a result of sexual assault perpetrated against her.
The court applied the rule that an employer is vicariously liable for the actions of its employee when an unlawful act is connected to the conduct authorised by the employer. The court held that the first respondent placed the second respondent in a senior position of trust and thus had the responsibility of ensuring that the second respondent was capable of that trust. This trust created the causal link between the second respondent and the wrongful act and that the employment relationship facilitated the sexual harassment.
The court also found the first respondent liable for imposing a two-week suspension as opposed to dismissing the second respondent for sexual harassment of a younger subordinate.
Accordingly, the court granted the application for damages in the sum of R4 million jointly and severally from the first and second defendant.
The respondent/plaintiff had sued the appellant/defendant for a liquidated debt following its default in payment and successfully applied for the matter to be placed on the undefended list. There it was heard exclusively on the papers to the respondent/plaintiff’s success. Two issues emerged on appeal: whether the trial court’s judgment contradicted the evidence, and whether the appellant’s notice of intention to defend disclosed a defence on the merits of the case, thereby justifying the matter’s transfer to the general cause list.
The appellate court held in favour of the respondents on both issues, finding first that the court had been thorough in its analysis of the evidence before it, and had crafted a reasoned order reflecting this.
The judge elucidated the purpose of the undefended list as a vehicle for swift justice where a defendant has no credible case. This was one such instance; the court found that the appellant had failed to raise a triable issue warranting the matter’s transfer to the general cause list. The appellant’s allegations of fraud did not conform to the recognised rules for establishing such a claim and were found lack any substance.
The appellant unsuccessfully invoked s 36(1) of the Constitution, contending that its right to a fair hearing had been breached through its being deprived of a comprehensive trial. The court affirmed the lawful function of the undefended list, emphasising that parties are given equal opportunities to be heard via the papers. Where a defendant was unable to raise a triable issue against the plaintiff’s claim, it could not resort to arguing that audi alterem partem had been flouted.
The appeal was dismissed.
The appellant was charged and found guilty of obtaining money under false pretenses; he then brought an appeal against the ruling of the High Court before the appellate court.
The court was faced with two issues, the first being whether the High Court was justified in convicting the appellant on allegations of misrepresentation not covered in the charge. The second issue was whether the high court was correct to convict the appellant for misrepresentation and seize his property.
The court held that the High Court was justified in convicting the appellant and that the allegations of misrepresentation were covered in the charge. The court further held that the High Court made no error in seizing the appellant’s property following the conviction.
By evaluating witness testimonies and the evidence led in the High Court, the court stated that the appellant had indeed misrepresented himself to the witnesses so they could part with monies and invests with the appellant. The court was of the view that sufficient evidence was led in the High Court which justified the conviction of the appellant. Regarding the seizure of property, the court stated that the High Court exercised its inherent powers to make an order of forfeiture since the appellant bought and used the property to carry out his illegal operations for which he was convicted.
The appeal was unsuccessful and the judgement of the High Court (conviction and sentence) was upheld.
This case concerns liability for damage caused to a vessel.
The court considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction over the second appellant which was only served indirectly. The court held that where a party does not object to any irregularity or invalidity in the service of process on him before
The trial court, he waives his right. In this case the second appellant, then defendant, did not object. Consequently, the court found that the trial court did indeed have jurisdiction.
The second ground of appeal was declared incompetent.
The court also considered whether the trial court had taken into account all evidence. It held that where a trial court unquestionably evaluates the evidence adduced and appraises the facts, it is not the business of the appellate court to substitute it is own view. The court was satisfied that the trial court took all evidence into account, although it was not explicitly referred to in the judgement. Consequently, the court decided against the appellants.
The court finally considered whether the negligence precludes the right to limit liability. It held that the ship master is the alter ego of the vessel on behalf of the owner. Consequently, the owner, together with the other appellants, was held jointly and severally liable.
The appeal was dismissed.
The issue was whether the state high court has jurisdiction over matters that are governed by the Investment and Security Act (the act). The case emanated from a dispute where the appellant was being sued in the court aqua for defrauding the respondents of units of shares. The appellant had raised a preliminary objection that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the matter which was dismissed. The appellant thus was challenging the dismissal of the objection.
The appellant argued that the trial judge erred in dismissing its objection on the basis that jurisdiction of the high court is limited and excludes matters that are regulated by the act. The appellant pointed out that disputes around the act should be determined by the Investment and Security Tribunal (the tribunal).
The respondent opposed the appeal on the grounds that the trial judge was correct because the jurisdiction of the high court was unlimited. They argued that the dispute emanates from torts, conspiracy and fraud which fall within jurisdiction of the high court and that the act was unconstitutional.
The court ruled that s 270 of the act establishes the tribunal to resolve disputes that fall under the act. It observed that s 284 of the act give the tribunal exclusive jurisdiction to determine matters regarding capital markets. It held that the dispute revolved around capital market operator (appellant) and its clients (respondents) hence it falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the tribunal. It concluded that the trial judge erred and the appeal was upheld.
The issue was whether the High Court had jurisdiction to order the freezing of the bank accounts of the applicant.
The dispute emanated from an order to freeze the applicant’s three bank accounts after allegations of money laundering by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC). The applicant was accused of illegally receiving approximately US$ 43 000 and remittance of US$ 39 000 from a Canadian company. The applicant tried without success to apply to defreeze the bank accounts.
The applicant further applied arguing that the Anti-Money Laundering Act (the act) only allowed the bank accounts to be frozen for one year. It pointed out that the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction when it dismissed the application because the statutory period of 12 months had lapsed. They also challenged the decision to freeze all the accounts including money that was not part of the laundering investigation on the basis that it was an infringement of the right to natural justice.
The FIC argued that that investigation of allegation of fraud, which is criminal in nature, is not affected by time constraints.
The court held that one year was enough for FIC to investigate any alleged wrong-doing. It ruled that High Court lacked the jurisdiction to order the continuous freezing of the accounts of the applicant beyond the one year. It further ruled that moneys which stood in the accounts of the applicants before any alleged illegal transfers into the accounts should not form part of the freezing order.
This was an appeal based on an action to set aside a consent judgment obtained before a court of competent jurisdiction on grounds of fraud.
The court determined whether such a consent judgment could be set aside despite its finality. The court observed that an appeal would not ordinarily lie against a consent judgment and that bringing a fresh action to challenge the validity of a consent judgment was a standard and accepted procedure. Thus, the court held that the court of appeal erred in treating the case as res judicata. The court also determined whether the Court of Appeal erred in striking the matter summarily when fraud was in issue. It was held that Court of Appeal erroneously denied the plaintiff a hearing leading to a violation of fundamental rule of natural justice.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed, the judgments the High Court and the Court of Appeal were set aside and the court ordered a trial on the merits based on the pleadings as they stood at the High Court.
The issue was whether the eviction of the plaintiff from her house was a result of any wrongful and/or fraudulent order by the defendant.
The plaintiff's suit was founded on the tort of misfeasance in public office. The tort of misfeasance in public office had two forms, namely (i) cases where a public power was exercised for an improper purpose with the specific intention of injuring a person or persons, and (ii) cases where a public officer acted in the knowledge that he had no power to do the act complained of and that it would probably injure the claimant
The court held that the plaintiff had to prove that the first defendant exercised his power in execution of the decree in the matter for an improper purpose with the specific intention of causing injury to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff however, as held by the court, failed to discharge her burden of proof required of her that the first defendant made any wrongful or fraudulent order resulting into evection of the plaintiff from her house in execution of a decree in case. Simply stated, the evidence led by the plaintiff was too insufficient to discharge a burden of proof on the tort of misfeasance in public office.
In the result, the plaintiff's evidence alleging fraudulent acts fell short of the standard required and the suit was dismissed.
The appellant claimed from the respondents jointly and severally for general damages for physical injuries he sustained after being involved in the accident caused by the motor vehicle owned by the first respondent and insured by the second respondent.
The issue was whether the magistrate erred in law and fact by considering false evidence tendered by the witness of the respondents.
The court held that the appellant did not state if it was all evidence tendered in court which was false or which part of it is false and was considered by the trial court’s magistrate and used in making the decision of the trial court.
The court noted that it had the duty as an appellate court to review the record of evidence of the trial court in order to determine whether the conclusion reached upon the evidence received by the trial court should stand. Though the court was in agreement with the appellant that motor vehicle insurance companies were statutorily duty bound to pay compensation to the victims of the accident caused by the motor vehicles of their clients but the compensation to be paid must be proved to the standard required by the law.
The court found that there was also no evidence tendered to the trial court to establish the appellant sustained permanent incapacity but he sustained temporary disability as indicated in the said exhibit.
The base of the suit was defamation whereby the plaintiff averred that the defendants defamed him.
The first issue was whether there was defamation and who was defamed among the two defendants. The court states that it is crucial in the commercial arena to inquire whether the published statement concerns the business itself or someone affiliated with the business in his individual capacity. Generally, the defamation must refer to the person defamed. In this case it had to be specifically pleaded whether the alleged defamation referred to the company business or to plaintiff witness individually.
For the second issue of whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter, it relied the principle contained in section 13 of the Civil Procedure Code that every suit must be instituted in the court of the lowest grade competent to try it. The object and purpose of the said provision is to prevent overcrowding in the court of higher grade where a suit may be filed in a court of lower grade; to avoid multifariousness of litigation and to ensure that case involving huge amount must be heard by a more experienced court. The suit should have been properly instituted either in the District Court or in the Court of the Resident Magistrate which have competent jurisdiction to try the same.
The court concluded that a cause of action arises when facts on which liability is founded exist of which there were none in this instance. Thus the suit was rejected.