Article 82/2021

Labour Edge

The parol evidence rule prevents a party from contradicting, adding to or modifying an agreement by reference to extrinsic evidence and, in that way, redefining the terms of such contract.  To what extent has this rule survived our new constitutional dispensation?

  1. Even after the advent of the new constitutional dispensation in our law, and more recently, the court, in Dreyer and Another NNO v AXZS Industries (Pty) Ltd 2006 (5) SA 548 (SCA), at paragraph [16], applied the parol evidence rule as follows:

‘The general import of the parol evidence rule … is well known. It is to the effect that, where an agreement is embodied in writing, the written document is conclusive as to its terms. No evidence, save the document itself, is admissible to prove them. Nor may the contents of the document be contradicted, altered, added to or varied by oral evidence.’

  1. In KPMG Chartered Accountants (SA) v Securefin Ltd and Another 2009 (4) SA 399 (SCA), at paragraph [39], the court held:

‘The integration (or parol evidence) rule remains part of our law. However, it is frequently ignored by practitioners and seldom enforced by trial courts. If a document was intended to provide a complete memorial of a jural act, extrinsic evidence may not contradict, add to or modify its meaning’ (see also HNR Properties CC and Another v Standard Bank of SA Ltd 2004 (4) SA 471 (SCA), at paragraph [19].

  1. The parol evidence rule has been applied often in the labour court and in the labour appeal court (see, for example, Blue IQ Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd v Southgate (2014) 35 ILJ 3326 (LAC), paragraph [18]; LAD Brokers (Pty) Ltd v Mandla (2001) 22 ILJ 1813 (LAC), paragraph [15]; FMW Admin Services CC v Stander and Others (2015) 36 ILJ 1051 (LC), paragraph [41]; Continuous Oxygen Suppliers (Pty) Ltd t/a Vital Aire v Meintjes and Another (2012) 33 ILJ 629 (LC), paragraph [31]; Ebrahim and Others v Sans Fibres (Pty) Ltd (2011) 32 ILJ 304 (LC), paragraphs [26]–[28].

With reference to Mogalakwena Local Municipality v The Provincial Executive Council, Limpopo and Others (2014) JOL 32103, what were the principles recently endorsed by the labour court in Munthali v PRASA (2021) 32 SALLR 22 (LC) when considering whether or not an applicant has established the required urgency when demanding re-employment on an urgent basis?

In the scenario where a senior employee enters into an agreement resolving a grievance of employees, on what basis did the labour appeal court recently hold that such employer is estopped from denying the authority of such senior employee to enter into such agreement?  And, what role does the conduct of the agent play, on the one hand (i.e. the senior employee), and, on the other hand, what role does the conduct of the principal play (i.e. the senior employee’s superior)?

What is the difference between contractual, statutory and collective agreement rights and obligations?