Reflecting on the Role and Impact of the Constitutional Value of uBuntu on the Concept of Contractual Freedom and Autonomy in South Africa




Contractual freedom and autonomy, Traditional African values, Ubuntu, Constitutional Limitations, Bill of Rights, Pacta Sunt Servanda


Private parties have the freedom and autonomy to enter into a contract. This autonomy is deeply rooted in their dignity and personal liberties. Private individuals, in furtherance of their autonomy and freedom to enter into a contract, have certain reasonable expectations, most fundamental of which is the desire that maximum respect is given to their legitimately concluded agreement. The concept of contractual freedom and autonomy connotes the idea that private individuals (natural and juristic) have the liberty to arrange their affairs in a manner that meets their economic interest without governmental inhibition, control and/or interference. However, the operative scope and the practical manifestations of the concept of contractual freedom are circumscribed in the constitutional, statutory, legislative and other socio-cultural orders of States. This article seeks to reflect on the role and influence of the constitutional value of ubuntu on the principle of contractual freedom and autonomy, and the naturally accompanying concepts of pacta sunt servanda and sanctity of contract in South Africa. The article provides an analysis of the judicial interpretation and views on the concept of contractual freedom and autonomy relative to other competing values that underlie the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Furthermore, the article appraises the impact of those judicial views on international commercial agreements. The article also discusses the extent to which communitarian values such as the concept of ubuntu have been infused into South African contract law and further reflects on the implication of infusing such communitarian values in both domestic and international contracts. The article concludes with a suggestion that the introduction of traditional African values in South African contract law fundamentally alters the theoretical foundations of the principle of contractual freedom and autonomy in both domestic and international contracts.



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Mardorf Peach & Co Ltd v Attica Sea Carriers Corporation of Liberia, The Laconia [1977] AC 850

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Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008



How to Cite

Coleman, T. E. (2021). Reflecting on the Role and Impact of the Constitutional Value of uBuntu on the Concept of Contractual Freedom and Autonomy in South Africa. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 24, 1–68.