The judgment of Wallis JA in the Endumeni case has been highly influential in setting out what is today the ‘proper approach’ to the interpretation of legal documents, including contracts. It marks a shift from an overly literal approach to interpretation, focused primarily on the language of the text, with recourse to extrinsic evidence permitted only in limited circumstances where there is ambiguity, to a more expansive, ‘unitary’ approach in terms of which, from the very outset, the court is required to have regard to the text, the context and the purpose of the provision, even if the words appear clear and unambiguous. This new approach, which leaves a considerably diminished role for the parol evidence rule, has been consistently approved and applied in subsequent cases, including by the Constitutional Court.
Join us for a webinar in which we will take a closer look at these concepts and their implications.
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Dale Hutchison is head of the Internal Research Unit at ENSafrica, and Emeritus Professor of UCT’s department of Private Law. After doctoral studies at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he returned to UCT as a senior lecturer in Roman Dutch & Private Law. He received a Distinguished Teacher Award in 1982, and in 1983 was appointed to the Chair of Roman Dutch & Private Law. He has also served the Faculty as Deputy Dean; sat as a Commissioner of the Small Claims Court in Wynberg. His main teaching subjects are the Law of Contract and the Law of Cession, but he has also taught many other courses including: the Law of Delict; Succession; Trusts; Estoppel; and Criminal Law. A particular research interest of his has been the problem of economic loss on the border between contract and delict. He has published extensively and was General Editor of Wille's Principles of South African Law. He has practised as an advocate of the High Court.
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