The Genesis of the Common Purpose Doctrine in South Africa




common purpose, socius criminis, criminal liability for participation


This contribution seeks to assess whether the generally accepted narrative of the emergence of the common purpose doctrine in South African law, as set out in Rabie's analysis of the doctrine, is indeed correct. In particular the following questions are examined: (i) Did the common purpose doctrine derive from English roots? (ii) Were the means of entry into South African law the Native Territories Penal Code? (iii) Did the doctrine indeed emerge in South African case law in 1917, in the Appellate Division case of McKenzie v Van der Merwe?


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Author Biography

Shannon Hoctor , Stellenbosch University South Africa

 Professor, Department of Public Law, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.




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Case law

Beket v Mouton 1917 OPD 90

Cipla Medpro (Pty) Ltd v Aventis Pharma SA 2013 4 SA 579 (SCA)

Godfrey v Campbell 1997 1 SA 570 (C)

In re Kelly v The State 1894 1 Off Rep 281

Lindsay and Pirie v the General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Corporation Ltd 1914 AD 574

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Mouton v Beket 1918 AD 181

Orenstein Arthur Koppel Ltd v Salamander Fire Insurance Co Ltd 1915 TPD 497

Naude and Du Plessis v Mercier 1917 AD 32

R v Abrams 1880-1882 1 SC 393

R v Bamana 1933 EDL 249

R v Barry 1932 TPD 312

R v Brett and Levy 1915 TPD 53

R v Cilliers 1937 AD 278

R v Cohen 1884-1885 3 SC 337

R v Duma 1945 AD 410

R v Dyomfane 1927 EDL 169 DOI:

R v Garnsworthy 1923 WLD 17

R v Harrington 1851 5 Cox CC 231

R v Itumeling 1932 OPD 10

R v Jackelson 1920 AD 486

R v Jogee 2016 UKSC 8

R v Kahn 1955 3 SA 177 (A) DOI:

R v Kaplan 1892-1893 10 SC 259

R v Kennedy (No 2) 2007 UKHL 38

R v Laubscher 1913 CPD 123

R v Littlejohn 1912 TPD 781

R v Longone 1938 AD 372

R v Louw 1904 21 SC 36 DOI:

R v Macklin, Murphy & Others 1838 2 Lewin 225, 168 ER 1136

R v Mapolisa 1965 1 All SA 533 (PC)

R v Mjoji 1912 AD 4

R v Mkize 1946 AD 197

R v Mlooi 1925 AD 131

R v Morela 1947 3 SA 147 (A)

R v Mpeta 1912 AD 568

R v Mtembu 1950 1 SA 670 (A) DOI:

R v Muka; R v Sitimela 1913 AD 290 DOI:

R v Nabi 1909 TS 103

R v Ndhlangisa 1946 AD 1101

R v Ngcobo 1928 AD 372

R v Peerkhan and Lalloo 1906 TS 798 DOI:

R v Rose 1911 CPD 956

R v Salie 1938 TPD 136

R v Sipeka 1915 EDL 19

R v Swartbooi 1916 EDL 170

R v Tababona 1915 SR 72

R v Taylor 1920 EDL 318

R v Veni Dume 1908 22 EDC 461 DOI:

S v Goosen 1989 4 SA 1013 (A)

S v Malinga 1963 1 SA 692 (A)

S v Mbatha 1987 2 SA 272 (A)

S v Mgedezi 1989 1 SA 687 (A)

S v Mzwempi 2011 2 SACR 237 (ECM)

S v Nomakhlala 1990 1 SACR 300 (A)

S v Nzo 1990 3 SA 1 (A)

S v Safatsa 1988 1 SA 868 (A)

S v Thebus 2003 2 SACR 319 (CC)

S v Thomo 1969 1 SA 385 (A) DOI:

S v Tshabalala 2020 2 SACR 38 (CC)

S v Williams 1980 1 SA 60 (A) DOI:

Steenkamp v Kyd 1898 15 SC 221


Black High Court Abolition Act 13 of 1954

Courts Act 49 of 1898 (N)

Native Territories Penal Code, Act 24 of 1886 (C)

Extended Jurisdiction of Native High Court Act 30 of 1910 (N)



How to Cite

Hoctor, S. (2023). The Genesis of the Common Purpose Doctrine in South Africa. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 26, (Published on 23 November 2023) pp 1 – 29.



Special Edition: Legal History

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