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

37 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2019

See all articles by Hanri Du Plessis

Hanri Du Plessis

University of South Africa - School of Law

Date Written: October 23, 2019

Abstract

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.

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

Suggested Citation

Du Plessis, Hanri, Legal Pluralism, uBuntu and the Use of Open Norms in the South African Common Law of Contract (October 23, 2019). Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, Vol. 22, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3491594

Hanri Du Plessis (Contact Author)

University of South Africa - School of Law ( email )

South Africa

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