We make no apologies for repeating what we have said in previous blog posts about how contracts are interpreted. Old habits with emphasis on the words used are difficult to break.

In the latest case (Cloete Murray v FirstRand Bank Limited) the court said: “The inevitable point of departure in interpreting a statute is the language of the provision itself, read in context and having regard to the purpose of the provision and the background to the preparation and production of the document. … If the words of the relevant provision are unable to bear the meaning contended for, then that meaning is impermissible. … Section 39(2) of the Constitution, which compels an interpretation of legislative provisions in the light of the values enshrined in the Bill of Rights, applies only where the language of the statute is not unduly strained.”

This applies to both statutes and contracts.

If you are going to have a contractual fight that depends on the meaning of a clause, consider the purpose of the clause and the context in which it was agreed before rushing to court.