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 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.
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.
Administrative law – judicial review- determining whether and administrative body acted ultra vires
Two parties both claimed ownership to land, both believing they were first to cultivate the land. The court considered an appeal from a judgment that held neither the appellants or respondents were entitled to land in dispute. When the matter was appealed, it was remitted back to the trial court. There was a dispute over the lower court’s decision to remit the case to the trial court to consider the evidence.
The court held that the court has no power to grant a party relief that was not pleaded. However, an appellate court has the inherent power to order a retrial or remittance of a case for whatever purposes, even if this was not pleaded. In this case however, the court held that the previous appellate court was wrong to remit the case back because the trial court had already evaluated the evidence.
The court emphasised that the court must not absolve itself of its duty to carefully evaluate evidence and determine a matter on its merits. The burden of proof lies on the person who alleges, and he must lead credible and cogent evidence to support his claim.
The court held that the applicant had not proven their claim to the land and the respondent, who led credible and cogent evidence about the ownership of the land, was entitled to the property in question.
This was an appeal based on the decision of the trial court to try the question of res judicata as preliminary point of law. Res judicata dictates that once a matter is decided by a competent court it cannot be reopened in subsequent litigation.
The court held that the trial court erred in its interpretation of order 33 rule 5 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004 by purporting to put an end to the full scale trial. The court held that in such circumstances, a plea of res judicata should only be sustained if it would result in a substantial disposal of the matter or render the determination of the other issues in the matter unnecessary. The court considered the uncertainty over the subject matter and the fact that a merit consideration of the action had already begun (at the trial court).
Accordingly, the appeal was upheld and an order made for the case to be remitted to the trial court for a re-trial.
This appeal considered whether the respondent was barred from re-litigating a matter concerning a dispute on the ownership of property based on the concept of res judicata. Res judicata dictates that once a matter is decided by a competent court it cannot be reopened in subsequent litigation.
The court applied the rule that an appellate court must evaluate the evidence on record as if the case is being heard afresh. The court noted that the plea of res judicata was not explicitly set out by the appellant in the High Court though it was raised as a ground of appeal to the court of appeal. The court observed that the previous courts failed to consider the plea. Base on the evidence on record, the court was satisfied that the properties described by the respondent n her writ of summons had once been litigated and held that the respondent was estopped from re-litigating the issue.
Accordingly, the court set aside the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal and deemed it worthy to consider the other grounds of appeal.
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 matter involve a ruling of contempt of court against the third and fourth respondents for their conduct in attacking the Chief Justice with an accusation of bias.
The court emphasised the importance of judicial independence as enshrined in the Constitution as a necessary element in maintaining judicial dignity and effectiveness, attributes that are crucial in upholding the democratic enterprise. Any attempt to disrespect the courts therefore amounts to an attack on the role of the courts and the community at large.
The court also emphasised the right to criticise the judiciary and its circumspection in exercising its power to charge citizens with contempt. However, should the conduct be of such gross a nature as to indicate a calculated attack, as in the present matter, the court would not refrain from the charge.
The court, however, acknowledged the harsh nature of the summary powers to charge for contempt, powers it accepted required circumspection. Nevertheless, the court considered the need to send a message to remind people to refrain from crossing the line between utilizing their freedom of expression and attacking the dignity of the court. It also invoked the principles of state policy which place duties to the citizenry to ensure the exercise of their freedoms upheld fundamental democratic principles. In the view of the court, the contemnors in question had dismally failed the above and therefore they were sentenced for contempt.
The court considered the proper remedy for a sub judice matter. Further, if the matter was a pending suit according to High Court Procedure rule 47 in the absence of an application made within six months of the last adjournment.
The court held that in terms of Civil Procedure Code s 8 when a matter is found to be sub judice the proper order is an order for stay of the matter. The court also defined the term ‘hearing’ in the ambit of rule 47 of the High Court Procedure Rules. The court held that the term is neither defined in the rules nor Civil Procedure Code. In that light, the court held that when a matter is called for orders, there is an issue of law or fact which is determined. Further, hearing and trial have different meanings. Therefore, the term hearing in rule 47 covers any judicial session before a judge or registrar.
The court was of the view that it would not deal with the matter because the court and same presiding officer had previously made the order. The court also found that the matter was called for hearing while it was still pending, and the court decided to adjourn the matter sine die. In that light, the court concluded that there was no application made within six months of the last adjournment as required by rule 47.
The court accordingly dismissed the application.