Topic: Drafting tips

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Arbitrator cannot fix scope of arbitration

An arbitrator has no power to fix the scope of the arbitrator’s jurisdiction. Jurisdiction must be fixed by the terms of reference of the arbitration. Its scope must be objectively ascertainable in advance of the arbitration. An arbitrator cannot make a decision conferring jurisdiction on the arbitrator that is not possessed in law. That is … Continue reading

Interpreting messy contracts

A commercial agreement should not lightly be determined unenforceable simply because the parties set out the terms in an unclear manner. The Supreme Court of Appeal, in Novartis v Maphil, dealt with whether a pharmaceutical drug manufacturer and a medical device supplier had concluded a contract. The court had to consider written documents, oral agreements … Continue reading

What does mutatis mutandis mean?

When you import the provisions of one document or statute into another it is common to do so “mutatis mutandis”. The Supreme Court of Appeal in Mayo No v De Montlehu reminded us that there is an imperative nuance when you use that Latin expression. The words mean “subject to the necessary alterations” not the … Continue reading

Interpret statutes according to the purpose

In a recent decision the Constitutional Court reminded us that where there is a constitutional issue there is a new approach to interpreting statutes. The courts must seek an interpretation that promotes the spirit, purport and objects of the Bill of Rights. The courts will apply a generous construction over a merely textual or legalistic … Continue reading

Headings will be taken seriously

Where a suretyship was headed “Deed of Suretyship – Tuning Fork (Pty) Limited t/a After Market Products” it was held that the surety only owed money for the debts incurred by the After Market Products division of the company even though that division was not a separate legal person. The court in Ian Kilburn v … Continue reading

Contracting with a trust

Ideally, when you contract with a trust, the agreement should be in the name of the trustee or trustees acting on behalf of the named trust. But where the trust is named as a party to the contract that does not render the contract invalid. This is the welcomed finding by the Supreme Court of … Continue reading

Interpretation of contracts: you may not get a judgment if you do not set out the factual matrix

The factual matrix may have to be set out and proved in a case involving the interpretation of an ambiguous contract. We have previously written about the method of interpreting a contract in our posts Golden rule of interpretation – Good riddance and Interpret contracts according to words, purpose and context. The Supreme Court of … Continue reading

Ambiguity in contracts

In recent blogs we have made the point that the background and context of an agreement will be taken into account in the interpretation of an ambiguous provision. Here are two quotes from US cases which have a neat approach to ambiguity: “It is well settled that ‘[a] contract is unambiguous if the language it … Continue reading

Unspecified interest is simple, not compound interest

A contract specifying that interest must be “calculated daily” does not mean compounded daily or capitalised daily. Simple interest therefore applies. In Euro Blitz 21 (Pty) Ltd and Another v Secena Aircraft Investments CC the appeal court found that the words “calculated daily” in a written lease agreement and consequent court order did not mean … Continue reading

General words followed by specific words

A recent tax case has a nice illustration of the ejusdem generis rule that where general words follow specific words, the general words must be confined to things of the same kind as those specified. The words in question are in the Eighth schedule of the Income Tax Act where section 35(3)(c) provides that the proceeds … Continue reading

Government’s way of interpreting a statute may help to indicate meaning

In any marginal question of statutory interpretation, evidence that it has been interpreted in a consistent way for a substantial period of time by those responsible for the administration of the legislation is admissible. The evidence may be relevant to tip the balance in favour of a particular interpretation. It is consistent with the modern … Continue reading

Repudiation of a contract

Parties to contracts frequently allege that the other party has repudiated the contract by expressing an intention not to be bound by its terms and cancelling the agreement as a consequence. That step must be taken with care. The Supreme Court of Appeal in Braun Medical (Pty) Limited v Ambasaam CC pointed out that the … Continue reading

Arbitration by foreigners in South Africa

There is no reason why foreign companies and individuals should not arbitrate their disputes in South Africa according to South African law. The South African courts will encourage the selection of South Africa as a venue for international arbitrations. Where a dispute “arising out of” the relationship between the parties is subject to arbitration, the … Continue reading

Interpretation of clumsy laws

Clumsy laws must be constructively dealt with. Even where laws are clumsily and inelegantly drafted, the courts should be slow to alter the words actually used. In Kalil v Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality the court said that it must guard against the temptation to substitute what the court regards as reasonable, sensible or businesslike for the words … Continue reading