The applicants had succeeded in a government tender which was subsequently set aside when irregularities in the tender were uncovered. Although the action for relief was moot, they asked the Constitutional Court for a judgment because they intended to pursue a claim for punitive constitutional damages. The relief was refused by the court because the remedy for such damages, arising from the obligations already performed under the contract was most unlikely to arise in the circumstances. Although the sanctity of contracts is essential to constitutional values, the applicants proffered nothing as to why the interests of justice should allow them to pursue such damages, except to say that in performing the contract they contributed to a positive attempt to empower emerging farmers and boost the provinces economy. That alone did not make out a claim for punitive constitutional damages and the application was dismissed.

Punitive constitutional damages are rarely granted and they are not intended to be a surrogate for a normal contractual remedy.

Agribee Beef Fund (Pty)Ltd v Eastern Cape Development Agency [2023] ZACC 6 (1 February 2023)