Court name
High Court of Tanzania

Kwiga Masa vs Samweli Mtubatwa () [1989] TZHC 23 (15 June 1989);

Law report citations
1989 TLR 103 (TZHC)
Media neutral citation
[1989] TZHC 23
Samatta, J.

Samatta, J.: This appeal is about ten head of cattle. It raises this question: Is the C District Court of Mpwapwa right in refusing to share the opinion of the Urban Primary Court of Mpwapwa that the ten beasts were rightly attached by the appellant, Kwiga Masa, from the kraal of the respondent's brother, Lazaro Mtubatwa?
The legal battle between the parties over the head of cattle commenced in the Primary D Court nearly two years ago. On May 18, 1987, the appellant obtained in that court a judgment against one Mpujila Kusaga. The judgment, inter alia, declared that he was entitled to recover from the defendant 8 head of cattle, 7 goats, shs.3,550/= and the costs of the suit. Later, he successfully applied for a warrant of attachment. The warrant E authorised and directed the District Commissioner to attach the judgment-debtor's ten head of cattle from Samweli Mtubatwa's cowshed. Armed with this document, the Acting Ward Secretary, in the company of the appellant and a member of the People's Militia, among others, proceeded to Samweli Mtubatwa's cowshed. There, in the F presence of the owner of the kraal and the respondent, among others, he executed the warrant and handed over the animals to the appellant. The respondent was "aggrieved" by that step. He summoned the law to his aid by commencing objection proceedings in Gthe Primary Court. The burden of his case was that the attached ten head of cattle were his property and not those of Mpujila Kusaga, the judgment-debtor.
He called several witnesses in support of that case. He asserted, among other things, that he had kept the beasts at his brother's kraal because, as a result of the implementation of H the HADO project, he was not allowed to keep them at his kraal. He gave the number of cattle he kept at his brother's kraal as being 6 bulls and 18 cows. His brother's evidence on this point, however, differed materially. The witness said the beasts were 12 in number - 2 bulls and 10 cows. Mpujila Kusaga, who gave evidence I for the respondent, denied that he was the owner of the ten head of cattle. The appellant's

case was that the animals belonged to Mpujila Kusaga. He, too, adduced evidence from A several witnesses, including the Acting Ward Secretary and the member of the People's Militia. Like the appellant, the Secretary and the militiaman asserted that when he was asked to sign the warrant of attachment, Samweli Mtubatwa refused to do so, saying that the ten head of cattle were the property of Mpujila Kusaga (the B judgment-debtor) and not his. The two witnesses also told the trial court that the respondent was present when the ten head of cattle were attached, but he said nothing.
The Primary Court magistrate and the assessors who sat with him unanimously held, C after a careful consideration of the evidence laid before him, that the respondent had failed to establish that the ten head of cattle were his property. Accordingly, they dismissed the objection. As already indicated, the learned District Magistrate found himself unable to uphold that decision. In the course of his judgment, he said: D
The court below unanimously accepted the respondent's story that the 10 head of cattle were the judgment-debtor's and so affirmed the seizure. I decline to share that view. There was no evidence to show that the head of cattle were the judgment-debtor's. He merely suspected that E they were the judgment-debtor's but he would not substantiate it. He said "Nilikamata hizo ng'ombe kumi katika zizi la Lazaro (SM2) ninavyojua mimi ng'ombe za mdaiwa-mhukumiwa zilikuwa (sio) zinakaa njia panda ya Msagali." He did not say that the judgment-debtor's head F of cattle were at Lazaro Mtubatwa's homestead. And none of his witnesses said that the 10 head of cattle were the judgment-debtor's. Suspicion alone was insufficient. He ought to have adduced some evidence to show that the 10 head of cattle were the judgment-debtor's. The G judgment-debtor denied that the same were not (sic) his. And strangely enough, the respondent did not cross-examine him on this aspect. And a failure to cross-examine on an important matter ordinarily implies the acceptance of the truth of the witness testimony. (see H Twalla Mohamed Mushi v R., Dar es Salaam Registry Criminal Appeal No. 216 of 1976 (unreported), where the English case of R. v Halter Berkley Hart [l932] 23 Criminal Appeal R. 202, was followed with approval. The appellant, on the other hand, adduced evidence to show that the 10 head of cattle were his. There was the evidence of Lazaro Mtubatwa, which was not I challenged, that the 10 head

of cattle were the appellant's. The respondent failed to show on balance of prependerances A that the 10 head of cattle were the judgment-debtor's.
With respect to the learned District Magistrate, I am of opinion that he was not entitled B in law to fault the Primary Court's decision in this case. In my view, he misdirected himself on three points, namely: (1) onus of proof; (2) effect of the failure by the appellant to cross-examine the judgment-debtor on the latter's assertion that the ten head of cattle did not belong to him; and (3) the credibility or otherwise of the evidence given C and adduced by the respondent. I propose to deal with these matters in turn.
It is clear from his judgment, that the learned District Magistrate entertained the view that D in objection proceedings the onus of proof lies on the judgment-creditor. With respect, this notion was wrong in law. In Lukasi Paskali v Mgwabi Mkaka, (Dodoma Registry) (PC) Civil Appeal No. 13 of 1987 (unreported), I dealt at length with the issue E of onus of proof in objection proceedings. In the instant case, I can, I think, do no better than to quote, in extenso, what I said in that case, at pp. 2-4 of the cyclostyled judgment:
The Primary Court was required to determine the issue raised in the objection proceedings in F accordance with Rule 70 of the Magistrates' Courts (Civil Procedure in Primary Courts) Rules, 1964). Unlike the rules in the Primary Courts Criminal Procedure Code, which on the coming into operation of the Magistates' Courts Act, 1984, ceased, as a result of being G repealed and replaced by the rules embodied in the Third Schedule to the Act I have just mentioned, to have any force of law, the Magistrates' Courts (Civil Procedure in Primary Courts) Rules, 1964 (hereinafter referred to as "the Rules"), were not repealed. They were H saved by the provisions of s. 72(3) of the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1984, which reads:
"Any applicable regulations made under the Magistrates' Courts Act 1963, and in force prior to the date upon which this Act comes into operation shall remain in force as if I they have been made under this Act until such time as they are amended or revoked by rules made under this Act."

Rule 70 of the Rules provides as follows: A
(1) Any person, other than the judgment-debtor, who claims to be the owner of or to have some interest in property which has been attached by the court may apply to the court to release the property from attachment. Stating the grounds on which he bases his B objection.
(2) On receipt of an application under sub-rule (1), the court shall fix a day and time for hearing the objection and shall cause notices thereof to be served upon the objector, C the judgment-creditor and the judgment-debtor.
(3) No order for the sale of such property shall be made until the application has been determined and if any such order has been made, it shall be postponed. D
(4) On the day fixed for the hearing, the court shall investigate the objection and shall receive such evidence as the objector, the judgment-creditor and the judgment-debtor may adduce. E
(5) If the court is satisfied that the property or any part of it does not belong to the judgment-debtor, it shall make an order releasing it, or such part of it, from attachment. (the underlining is my own). F
The question that is raised by the present appeal is whether the District Court was right in law in holding, as it did, that in the objection proceedings the onus of proof lay on the judgment-creditor. In my opinion, the District Court misdirected itself in so holding. The G general principles governing the determination of the incidence of onus is one stated in the Latin Maxim: semper necessitas probandi incumbit illi qui agit [see s. 110 of the Evidence Act, l967]. Put in a modern language, the maxim would read something like this: He who seeks a remedy must prove the grounds thereof. In certain situations the Hlegislature may, and sometimes does, lay down rules which are inconsistent with that general principle, but it seems to me, having regard to the wording of Rule 70(5) of the Rules, that in that rule the general principle has not been displaced. On the contrary, I am of the settled opinion that the rule embodies that principle. If the legislature had intended I to effect a departure from

that [principle] and impose the onus of proof on the judgment-creditor it could easily A have demonstrated that intention by wording sub-rule (5) as follows or to this effect:
"(5) If the court is not satisfied that the property or any part of it belongs to the judgment-debtor, B it shall make an order releasing it, or such part of it, from attachment."
It is instructive to note, I think, that in objection proceedings conducted in higher courts under the provisions of Order XXI Rules 57 and 58 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1966, C the objector, to quote the latter rule, "must adduce evidence to show that at the date of attachment he had some interest in ... the property attached."
I adhere to those words. In my view, the learned District Magistrate in the present case, like his learned brother in Paskali's case supra, strayed into an error in law in D entertaining the view that in objection proceedings the onus of proof lies on the judgment-creditor. As, I hope, clearly demonstrated in the passage I have ventured to quote, the onus in such proceedings lies on the objector. In the instant case, therefore, E the burden of proof lay on the respondent. That statement brings me to a consideration of the second matter.
It is perfectly true, as was remarked by the learned District Magistrate, that the appellant did not cross-examine Mpujila Kusaga on the point. The two cases the learned District G Magistrate cited - Twalla Mohamed Mushi's case and Walter Berkley Hart's case - do not lay down an inflexible rule of law that any important evidence which is not challenged by way of cross-examination must be taken to be conceded as being true. A failure to cross-examine is merely a consideration to be weighed up with all other factors H in the case in deciding the issue of truthfulness or otherwise of the unchallenged evidence. The failure does not necessarily prevent the court from accepting the version of the omitting party on the point. The witness' story may be so improbable, vague or contradictory that the court would be justified to reject it, notwithstanding the opposite I party's failure to challenge it during cross-examination. In any case, it may

be apparent on the record of the case, as it is in the instant case, that the opposite party, A in omitting to cross-examine the witness, was not making a concession that the evidence of the witness was true. It must be emphasized to the magistracy, I think, that when litigants who appear before them are unrepresented and not the kind of persons who are likely to understand clearly all the intricacies of court procedure, ordinarily it is B not right to hold against such persons mistakes they might make such as failing to cross-examine. It must not be forgotten that in some customary legal systems in our country, cross-examination was not regarded as an important procedure in a trial. Sometimes the attitude of an ordinary African litigant (or even an accused person) who is C not formally educated is: "let him (his opponent) and his witnesses tell their story. I will let the court know my version of the matter when it is my turn to go into the witness box". It is not, therefore, surprising that when he is later told that his omission to cross-examine, or to cross-examine on an important point, has been taken by the court D as demonstrating or suggesting that he was accepting the witness' version, such a litigant may be tempted to believe that the law is an ass. In the interest of justice, when a litigant who is not likely to be familiar with the intricacies of court procedure appears before him, a magistrate should explain to him, briefly and in a simple language, the E objects of cross-examination - "to impeach the accuracy, credibility and general value of the evidence given in chief; to sift the facts already stated by the witness, to detect and expose discrepancies, or to elicit suppressed facts which will support the case of the F cross-examining party." It should be made perfectly clear to such a litigant that if there is anything relevant which the opposite party or his witness has not said or touched upon in his evidence-in-chief which he would like the court to know and take into account in deciding the case, he can and should try to elicit the thing from the opposite party or his G (the opposite party's) witness, as the case may be. The party should further be informed, in a simple language, that where the witness' version defers materially from his own version, he should, as briefly as possible, put his version to the witness with a view of making him (the witness) agree that what is going to be alleged by him or his witness is H what occurred or was said on the occasion in question. If the party knows any reason why the opposite party or his (the opposite party's) witness should lie or be inclined not to tell the whole truth, then, ordinarily, he should cross-examine him on the point and put the reason to him. Ordinarily, these matters need be explained to the party (or accused) I only once - just before he embarks

upon the cross-examination of the first witness. I am confident that if magistrates take A such trouble, irrelevant cross-examination and wrong omissions to cross-examine by such litigants will be minimised. To revert to the instant case, I am of opinion that the failure on the part of the appellant to cross-examine the judgment-debtor on his (the B latter's) assertion that the ten head of cattle did not belong to him cannot, upon the evidence on record, be regarded as amounting to a concession by the appellant that the assertion was true. Finally, I must deal with the third point.
There were, in my opinion, three principal reasons for disbelieving the evidence adduced by the respondent. The first reason is that, according to the testimony of the two D independent witnesses in the case, the Acting Ward Secretary and the militiaman, although he was present when the attachment of the ten head of cattle was carried out, the respondent uttered no word. It seems improbable, if, as was asserted by him in the witness-box, the animals were his property, that the respondent would not have E protested to the Secretary against the attachment. The second reason relates to the glaring discrepancy between the evidence of the respondent and that of his brother, Samweli Mtubatwa, the man in whose kraal the ten head of cattle were at the time of F attachment. It will be recalled that the respondent asserted that he kept 24 head of cattle in the kraal, but according to his brother, the number of the cattle was 12. This inconsistency is, in my judgment, unresolvable. The gap which yawns between the two assertions demonstrates, in my opinion, that the assertion that the attached head of cattle G are the respondent's property is nothing but a moonshine, designed to defeat justice in this case. Thirdly, according to the evidence of the Acting Ward Secretary and the militiaman, when asked to append his signature to the warrant of attachment, Samweli Mtubatwa refused to do so, saying that the ten head of cattle belonged to the H judgment-debtor. This piece of evidence shows, in my opinion, that Samweli Mtubatwa's word in the witness-box cannot safely be relied upon.
The conclusion I reach, without any hesitation, from the foregoing is that the Primary Court was right in holding, as it did, that the respondent had failed to discharge the onus I lying on him in this matter. I cannot bring myself to entertain any doubts as to the

correctness of that court's decision. Unlike the learned District Magistrate, I am of A opinion that, in the legal battle, the appellant had two powerful allies on his side - justice and law. Clearly, the learned District Magistrate erred in refusing to share the opinion of the Primary Court.
The appeal is allowed, the decision of the District Court is recalled and that of the B Primary Court is restored. The appellant will have his costs in this court as well as in the District Court.
C Appeal allowed.