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 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.