Wilson Masauso Zulu v Avondale Housing Project Limited (1982) ZR 172 Case Summary

This is a case summary of a landmark case which is commonly cited in civil cases on findings of facts and the burden of proof.


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Findings of fact by a trial court,

The burden of proof in civil matters.


The Appellant (Zulu) was employed by the Respondent as an assistant accountant. By a letter, the respondent terminated the appellant’s employment. The letter contends that the appellant had prepared an invoice he had no authority to; He signed an order on behalf of Zambezi Enterprise and caused the respondent purchase control stamp to be appended to the said invoice without the contract manager's authority. The letter further stated that the appellant had approved the said invoice and presented it to collect a cheque. the cheque in question did not purchase the fictitious goods on the invoice from Zambezi Enterprise. The letter stated that the respondent did not see the need to order paint from the company above as the painting was subcontracted. The letter also stated that the appellant had prepared another invoice to the same company for the electrification of a property to be purchased by him. They also prepared a cheque which was stopped by the project manager. The respondent concluded that they cannot keep the appellant in such a position of trust thus terminating his employment with payment of one month extra instead of notice, on the condition that he pays back the cheque he managed to obtain from the respondents from the first invoice.

The appellant in the lower court contended that the allegations were without foundation and unjustified, as the invoices referred to in the letter were neither irregular nor dishonest as they were duly approved. Thus, the appellant contended that the termination was unlawful and without justification.

The lower court dismissed the appellants' contentions and accepted the respondent’s contention. Thus, the appellant appealed that the respondent had in fact not adduced any evidence to support the allegations in their letter,

The issue

Whether an appellate court can reverse the findings of fact by the trial court.

Whether the burden of proof laid on the respondents who were the defendants in the lower court


The court held that before an appellate court can reverse findings of fact made by a trial judge, it would have to be satisfied that the findings in question were either perverse or made in the absence of any relevant evidence, in Casu the appellant presented no evidence in support of his contention’s, the respondent did in fact adduce evidence to their contentions in the letter and did they were deficiencies and

 it appeared the appellant took the view that the burden of proof lay on the respondent. This did not as the plaintiff who alleged that he had been wrongfully or unfairly dismissed must prove his case that he cannot be entitled to judgment as the defendant in such a case needs no defence.

Law Student, The University of Zambia

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