Fraus Legis in Constitutional Law: The Case of Expropriation "Without" or for "Nil" Compensation


  • Martin van Staden Sakeliga, Free Market Foundation



constitutional amendments, without compensation, substance over form, Fraus legis


Fraus legis – defrauding or evading the application of law – is a phenomenon well-known to students of private law, but its application in public law, including constitutional law, remains largely unconsidered. To consider whether a transaction, or, it is submitted, an enactment, is an instance of fraus legis, an interpreter must have regard to the substance and not merely the form of an enactment. In 2018 Parliament resolved to amend section 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (the Constitution) to allow government to expropriate property without being required to pay compensation. While the public and legal debate has since before that time been concerned with "expropriation without compensation", the draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill, 2019 provides instead for expropriation where "the amount of compensation is nil". By the admission of Parliament's legal services unit, this is a distinction without a difference. But compensation and expropriation are legally and conceptually married, and as a result, it would be impermissible to expropriate without compensation – instead, nil compensation will be "paid". How does this current legal affair comport with the substance over form principle, and is fraus legis at play? This article considers the application of the fraus legis phenomenon to public law, utilising the contemporary case study of the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill.


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How to Cite

van Staden, M. (2021). Fraus Legis in Constitutional Law: The Case of Expropriation "Without" or for "Nil" Compensation. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 24, 1–31.




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