Topic: Drafting tips

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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

Don’t allow arbitrators to make the contract

An arbitration clause should never be drawn so broadly that the arbitrator determines the wording of the contract.  Arbitrators should be asked to interpret contracts and not make them for the parties. The consequences of such a broad arbitration clause could be that the arbitrator imposes contract terms on the parties which they would never … Continue reading

Drafting tips: vague contracts

When ascertaining the meaning of a contract, a court will first have regard to its wording. The wording must be considered in the context or factual matrix in which the contract was concluded. That is so even if, on the face of it, the words are clear. Where the words are ambiguous or lack clarity, … Continue reading