Legal Pluralism, uBuntu and the Use of Open Norms in the South African Common Law of Contract




Bona fides, common law of contract, contractual fairness, good faith, legal historical comparison, legal pluralism, Roman law of contract, ubuntu


In this article, a comparison is drawn between the role of good faith in the development of the Roman law of contract and the emerging role of ubuntu in the South African common law of contract. Firstly, it is shown how the Romans realised that their existing formal and rigid laws could not address the changing legal needs of the community due to the influx of foreigners (especially foreign traders) into Rome. In reaction to the changing commercial environment, they introduced flexible legal procedures and a more normative approach to these legal transactions to achieve fairness and justice between the contracting parties. This worked so well that the new flexible procedures and normative principles were transferred to the existing formalistic law. Gradually the existing ius civile became subject to a more normative interpretation in the interests of justice through the use of the open norm of good faith. It is argued that in a similar way, ubuntu can be used to address legal pluralism in the South African legal system, and its application as an underlying constitutional value could result in the better use of the open norm of good faith to address contractual unfairness.




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How to Cite

Du Plessis, H. M. (2019). Legal Pluralism, uBuntu and the Use of Open Norms in the South African Common Law of Contract. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 22, 1–37.




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