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

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

Abstract

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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Case law
Affordable Medicines Trust v Minister of Health 2006 3 SA 247 (CC)
African Dawn Property Finance 2 (Pty) Ltd v Dreams Travel and Tours CC 2011 3 SA 511 (SCA)
Afrox Healthcare Bpk v Strydom 2002 6 SA 21 (SCA)
August v Electoral Commission 1999 3 SA 1 (CC)
Barkhuizen v Napier 2007 5 SA 323 (CC)
Beadica 231 CC v Trustees for the time being of the Oregon Trust 2020 5 SA 247 (CC)
Botha v Rich 2014 4 SA 124 (CC)
Brisley v Drotsky 2002 4 SA 1 (SCA)
Du Plessis v De Klerk 1996 3 SA 850 (CC)
Everfresh Market Virginia (Pty) Ltd v Shoprite (Pty) Ltd 2012 1 SA 256 (CC)
Fourways Haulage SA (Pty) Ltd v SA National Roads Agency Ltd 2009 2 SA 150 (SCA)
Guggenheim v Rossenbaum 1961 4 SA 21 (W)
Hoffman v South African Airways 2001 1 SA 1 (CC)
Improvair (Cape) (Pty) Ltd v Establissement Neu 1983 2 SA 138 (C)
Laconian Maritime Enterprises Ltd v Agromar Lineas Ltd 1986 3 SA 509 (D)
Maphango v Aengus Lifestyle Properties (Pty) Ltd 2011 5 SA 19 (SCA)
Mardorf Peach & Co Ltd v Attica Sea Carriers Corporation of Liberia, The Laconia [1977] AC 850
Mohamed's Leisure Holdings (Pty) Ltd v Southern Sun Hotel Interests (Pty) Ltd 2018 2 SA 314 (SCA)
Mohlomi v Minister of Defence 1997 1 SA 124 (CC)
Mozart Ice Cream Franchises (Pty) Ltd v Davidoff 2009 3 SA 78 (C)
Port Elizabeth Municipality v Various Occupiers 2005 1 SA 217 (CC)
President of the Republic of South Africa v Hugo 1997 4 SA 1 (CC)
Roazer CC v The Falls Supermarket CC 2017 2 All SA 166 (GJ)
Roazer CC v The Falls Supermarket 2018 3 SA 76 (SCA)
S v Makwanyane 1995 3 SA 391 (CC)
South African Forestry Company Limited v York Timbers Limited 2004 4 All SA 167 (SCA)
Standard Bank of South Africa v Effroiken and Newman 1924 AD 171
Trustees for the time being of Oregon Trust v Beadica 231 CC 2019 4 SA 517 (SCA)
Vallejo v Wheeler [1774] 1 Cowp 143
Legislation
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008
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