Article 48/2022

What is the interpretation formula adopted in Natal Joint Municipal Pension Fund v Endumeni Municipality 2012 (4) SA 593 (SCA), paragraph [18], to be applied to interpreting words used in any document, including legislation, other statutory instruments or contracts?  In the 37th annual SALLR seminar workbook (2021), the aforesaid approach was adopted in respect of the interpretation of pre-trial minutes (page 77 of the workbook), the interpretation of various sections of the BCEA (page 112 of the workbook), the interpretation of strike ballot guidelines (page 99 of the workbook), the interpretation of the Gatherings Act (page 232 of the workbook) and the interpretation of various provisions regulating protest action (page 238 of the workbook).

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In Natal Joint Municipal Pension Fund v Endumeni Municipality [2012] 2 All SA 262 (SCA); 2012 (4) SA 593 (SCA), at paragraph [18], it was stated that:

‘…Interpretation is the process of attributing meaning to the words used in a document, be it legislation, some other statutory instrument, or contract, having regard to the context provided by reading the particular provision or provisions in the light of the document as a whole and the circumstances attendant upon its coming into existence. Whatever the nature of the document, consideration must be given to the language used in the light of the ordinary rules of grammar and syntax; the context in which the provision appears; the apparent purpose to which it is directed and the material known to those responsible for its production. Where more than one meaning is possible each possibility must be weighed in the light of all these factors. The process is objective not subjective. A sensible meaning is to be preferred to one that leads to insensible or unbusinesslike results or undermines the apparent purpose of the document. Judges must be alert to, and guard against, the temptation to substitute what they regard as reasonable, sensible or businesslike for the words actually used. To do so in regard to a statute or statutory instrument is to cross the divide between interpretation and legislation. In a contractual context it is to make a contract for the parties other than the one they in fact made. The “inevitable point of departure is the language of the provision itself”, read in context and having regard to the purpose of the provision and the background to the preparation and production of the document.’

With reference to Potgieter v Samancor Chrome Ltd t/a Tubatse Ferrochrome (2022) 33 SALLR 190 (LC) and Van Rensburg and Others v Department of Justice and Correctional Services and Others (2022) 33 SALLR 280 (LC); (2022) 43 ILJ 2110 (LC).

In what instances does the jurisdiction of the supreme court of appeal trump the jurisdiction of the labour appeal court?

Where an employer prematurely terminates a fixed-term contract and the employee challenges such termination as being unlawful and claims damages and not specific performance, the labour court has up to now ordered damages even though same is an unliquidated claim for damages.