17 June 2024

International Cases

Mohuba vs. University of Limpopo

South Africa



Onus is on the party seeking specific performance to prove the terms of the contract and compliance with any antecedent or reciprocal obligation

Present is an appeal against the judgment and order of the High Court, upholding the Respondent’s special plea that, the contractual relief sought by the appellant was incompetent and dismissing the Appellant’s action with costs. The appeal is before this Court with the leave of the high court.

As a party who was seeking specific performance, the onus was on the Appellant to allege and prove the terms of the contract and compliance with any antecedent or reciprocal obligation. If the appellant could not prove the contract or compliance with its terms, his claim for specific performance had to fail. If on the other hand, the court was satisfied that the appellant had established the terms of the contract, that he had complied with any antecedent obligation, including statutory requirements, and that the university had repudiated the contract, it had to grant specific performance unless there existed factors which justified the refusal of the remedy.

In terms of Rule G53 of the General Rules of the university, a doctorate may only be awarded on the basis of a completed thesis. In terms of rule G60, a doctorate may only be awarded after the candidate has been registered for the degree at the university for at least two academic years before presenting his or her thesis. In terms of the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF), the duration for a PhD is a minimum of two years of full-time study.

The order of the high court upholding the special plea and dismissing the appellant’s claim could not stand. The procedure of the special plea was not an appropriate procedure to resolve the questions raised by the university; the high court should have allowed the question raised by the special plea to stand over for decision by the high court, as it appears that the question is interwoven with the evidence that will be led.

The relationship between a student and the university is not straightforward. It cannot be characterised as one that is to be understood as one that is either entirely of private or public law nature. In this matter, it meant that the appellant’s case should have been left for determination at the trial after all evidence has been led. This Court found that an award of a separation order was inappropriate and the matter ought to have been remitted to the high court. The order of the high court replaced with one remitting the matter to the high court for trial.

Tags : Contractual relief Denial Legality

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