Do’s and don’ts of suretyship

On 29 May 2015, in the case of Dormell Properties 282 CC v Bamberger[1], the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) set out the importance of, firstly, expressly pleading a suretyship clause in a plaintiff’s particulars of claim and, secondly, ensuring that the contract to which a deed of suretyship is annexed is duly signed by all parties thereto.

In the case of Dormell Properties 282 CC v Bamberger[2] (Dormell case) there were two agreements of importance. The first agreement was a written offer to lease agreement concluded between Dormell and Edulyn, duly represented by Bamberger in his capacity as sole director, in terms of which Bamberger undertook to bind himself as surety for Edulyn’s obligations under a second agreement, being the agreement of lease.[3]

The first agreement was properly signed by the parties; however, the agreement of lease was only signed by Bamberger. Annexed to the agreement of lease was a deed of suretyship which Bamberger signed. The deed of suretyship and agreement of lease were annexed to Dormell’s particulars of claim as if this suretyship was the instrument that bound Bamberger as surety and co-principal debtor for the fulfilment of the obligations of Edulyn.[4]

In the court a quo, Savage AJ found that ‘a contract of suretyship requires a valid principal obligation with someone other than the surety as debtor and the liability of the surety does not arise until this principal obligation has been contracted (Caney [C F Forsyth and J T Pretorius Caney’s The Law of Suretyship in South Africa 6 ed (2010)] at 47)’.[5] In the SCA the appellant conceded that no express reference to the first suretyship clause was made in the particulars of claim, but argued, inter alia, that the omission caused no prejudice to Bamberger.[6]

Dormell’s cause of action was based on the deed of suretyship attached to the agreement of lease and not on the suretyship clause in the first agreement. To seek to change this now would amount to an amendment of the particulars of claim and the advancing of a case which was not initially pleaded. Bamberger therefore contended that he was not given the opportunity to raise any defence which he could have raised to the suretyship clause.[7]

The SCA set out that ‘the purpose of pleadings is to define the issues for the parties and the court. Pleadings must set out the cause of action in clear and unequivocal terms to enable the opponent to know exactly what case to meet. Once a party has pinned its colours to the mast it is impermissible at a later stage to change those colours.’[8] Furthermore the court found that Dormell should have expressly alleged a valid contract of suretyship (i.e. that the terms of the deed of suretyship were embodied in a written document signed by or on behalf of the surety which identified the creditor, the surety and the principal debtor). Dormell had to allege the cause of the debt in respect of which the defendant undertook liability as well as the actual indebtedness of the principal debtor.[9]

In the Dormell case the deed of suretyship was invalid and enforceable because it was annexed to an agreement of lease which wasn’t signed by Dormell, and therefore the suretyship was in respect of a non-existent obligation. Dormell conceded that the suretyship pleaded was invalid, but argued that Bamberger would not suffer any prejudice if Dormell was allowed to rely on the suretyship in the first agreement instead. The court found that although it does have discretion regarding keeping parties strictly to their pleadings, it does not agree that this discretion reaches as far as to place a party in the disadvantageous position of not being permitted to raise any legal defence.[10]

In deciding the above, the court looked at whether Bamberger would have conducted his case materially differently, had Dormell’s case been pleaded properly. The court found that he would have, in that he would have been in the position to raise the defence of non-excussion (i.e. that Dormell should have first claimed the outstanding amounts owed from Edulyn and only if they could not pay this amount, should Dormell have claimed from Bamberger).[11] He had not raised this defence in his plea or at the trial because the deed of suretyship annexed to the agreement of lease in terms of which he had waived the defence of non-excussion (which was not signed by Dormell) was relied upon.[12]

The SCA therefore found that Bamberger would suffer prejudice if it were to allow Dormell to rely on the suretyship clause in the first agreement which was not relied upon in the particulars of claim.[13] It is therefore crucial to, firstly, expressly plead the details of a valid suretyship clause in a plaintiff’s particulars of claim and, secondly, to ensure that the contract to which a deed of suretyship is annexed is duly signed by all parties thereto. If you do not do so you may find yourself in a situation where the courts will not allow you to enforce a valid suretyship.

[1] (20191/14) [2015] ZASCA 89 (29 May 2015)
[2] (20191/14) [2015] ZASCA 89 (29 May 2015)
[3] ibid para 1-3
[4] ibid para 5
[5] Dormell Properties 282 CC v Bamberger (20191/14) [2015] ZASCA 89 (29 May 2015) para 8
[6] ibid para 8
[7] ibid para 10
[8] ibid para 11
[9] ibid para 12
[10] Dormell Properties 282 CC v Bamberger (20191/14) [2015] ZASCA 89 (29 May 2015) para 15
[11] ibid para 19
[12] ibid para 20
[13] ibid para 21

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Openbare oorlaste: Wetlike regte in terme van wetgewing

Persone wat ontwrigtende dade van onaanvaarbare gedrag in openbare plekke pleeg, mag gewaarsku en daarna deur die owerhede in hegtenis geneem word. Die oortreder sal aanspreeklik wees vir ‘n boete, gevangenisstraf of beide by skuldigbevinding. Hoe word hierdie toepassing van ons regte behaal deur ‘n gewone burger?

‘n Openbare oorlas is ‘n kriminele misdaad; dit is ‘n daad of versuim wat belemmer, skade berokken, of die regte van die gemeenskap verontrief. Die term openbare oorlas dek ‘n wye verskeidenheid van geringe misdade wat die gesondheid, morele waardes, veiligheid, gerief, gemak of welsyn van ‘n gemeenskap bedreig.

Wetgewing bied verligting in hierdie verband, spesifiek in die verordeninge van die plaaslike munisipaliteite. ‘n Verordening is ‘n wet wat deur die Raad van ‘n munisipaliteit aangeneem word om die sake en die dienste wat dit bied binne sy regsgebied te reguleer. ‘n Munisipaliteit verkry die magte om ‘n verordening goed te keur van die Grondwet van die Republiek van Suid-Afrika.

Met betrekking tot openbare oorlaste sou ‘n mens kyk na Verordening op Strate, Openbare Plekke en die Voorkoming van Stoornisse, 2007. Die grootste deel van hierdie verordening lys sekere handelinge wat as verbode gedrag geag word en daarmee gekriminaliseer word. Verskillende aksies, insluitend bedel, die gebruik van beledigende of dreigende taal, om onder die invloed van dwelms of alkohol te wees en ‘n versteuring te veroorsaak deur te skreeu, gil of enige ander harde en aanhoudende geraas of klank, insluitend versterkte geraas en klank te maak, word daarin gelys.

Indien enigiemand se gedrag binne hierdie definisie val en hy enige of verskeie verbode handelinge van openbare oorlas uitvoer, moet die owerhede onmiddellik in kennis gestel word. Die owerhede het die mag om die oortreder te gelas om die gewraakte gedrag onmiddellik te staak, by versuim waarvan hy aan ‘n misdryf skuldig sal wees.

Artikel 23 bepaal dat enige persoon wat oortree of versuim om te voldoen aan ‘n bepaling van hierdie verordening of versuim om enige instruksie deur die owerhede wat hierdie verordening afdwing, te gehoorsaam, aan ‘n misdryf skuldig sal wees. Die oortreder sal aanspreeklik wees vir ‘n boete of gevangenisstraf vir ‘n tydperk van hoogstens ses maande, of vir beide ‘n boete en sodanige gevangenisstraf.

Dit is dus voor die hand liggend dat deur die identifisering van sekere handelinge van onaanvaarbare, aggressiewe, dreigende, beledigende of obstruktiewe gedrag van persone in die openbaar, die oortreder gelas kan word om onmiddellik sodanige gewraakte optrede te staak of in hegtenis geneem te word vir die nie-nakoming van enige opdrag om die optrede te staak.

Verwysingslys:

  1. http://openbylaws.org.za/za/by-law/cape-town/2007/streets-public-places-noise-nuisances/
  1. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Public Nuisance
  1. http://openbylaws.org.za/
  1. https://www.capetown.gov.za/en/bylaws/Pages/Home.aspx

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies. (E&OE)

Discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace

Employees are often faced with a difficult situation in the workplace when falling pregnant. Many establishments react unfavourably towards female employees that fall pregnant. These employees are often discriminated against in various direct and indirect manners. There are, however, clear provisions that protect employees in these situations which employees should familiarise themselves with.

There are different ways in which employees can be discriminated against in the workplace due to the fact that the employee has fallen pregnant. These forms of discrimination have different degrees of disadvantage towards the employee. It can range from having her contract terminated, being treated badly, being verbally abused or being ridiculed because she has fallen pregnant.

As a point of departure, it is stated in Section 9(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa[1], that nobody may be discriminated against based on the fact that they are pregnant. It is therefore a constitutional right for an employee not to be discriminated against in any form or manner because of her pregnancy. This right is further confirmed by Paragraph 4.2 of the Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy[2].

The most severe form of discrimination against an employee is the dismissal of an employee due to the fact that she has fallen pregnant. The Labour Relations Act [3] specifically mentions that an employer is not entitled to dismiss an employee due to her pregnancy. However, there are various other ways of discriminating against a pregnant employee that should be noted.

Employees should be mindful of more subtle forms of discrimination, such as contracts not being renewed when it was earlier apparent that it would have been, or where a promotion is not granted to an employee purely because she has fallen pregnant at a certain time. Whenever an employee can prove that there was a direct link between any disadvantage and her pregnancy, she will most likely be entitled to the appropriate remedy. Employees are further entitled to a certain amount of unpaid maternity leave and will be entitled to insist on it.

In the event of an employee being dismissed due to her pregnancy, or where it is clear that an employee was discriminated against in any way for this reason, there are various remedies for the employee to choose from. It is always a good idea to resolve the issue without taking legal action, as this will be an expensive exercise and will most likely cause a relatively uncomfortable atmosphere between an employee and an employer. An informal arrangement between the employer and employee is therefore recommended, yet it is not always a practical solution. However, if no other option is available to the employee, she will always have the option to approach the CCMA as well as Labour Courts to prove that she was discriminated against due to her pregnancy. She will then be in a position to request the appropriate remedy.

In conclusion, female employees should be mindful of possible forms of discrimination against them as it is clearly prohibited. Direct and indirect forms of discrimination exist but aren’t always easy to identify. However, if identified and proven, such discrimination will not be allowed and must subsequently be corrected.

Bibliography

Acts:
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy
Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995

[1] Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
[2] Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy
[3] Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Wanneer verjaar ‘n eis?

Die kwessie rakende die regsaard van ‘n verdedigende eis en of dit aanleiding gee tot skuld wat onderworpe is aan die drie jaar uitwissende verjaringstermyn is verskillend hanteer deur verskillende afdelings van die Hoërhof. Op 28 Mei 2015 het die Hooggeregshof tot ‘n finale besluit gekom in Absa Bank v Keet[1] rakende of eise onder die actio rei vindicatio na drie jaar verjaar al dan nie.

Een van die eerste vrae wat u prokureur u sal vra wanneer u met hom konsulteer, is wanneer die skuldoorsaak plaasgevind het, sodat hulle kan vasstel of u eis verjaar het. Indien u eis verjaar het, beteken dit dat daar geen wetlike regstellings meer tot u beskikking is nie. Eise voortspruitend uit skuld verjaar na drie jaar en die reëls van verjaring word in die Verjaringswet van 1969 uiteengesit.

Daar is een spesifieke eis waar die toepassing van die drie jaar verjaringstydperk onseker was en dit was in verband met eise onder die actio rei vindicatio. Dit is ‘n regsaksie waarby die eiser eis dat die verweerder ‘n item wat aan die eiser behoort, teruggee, en dit mag slegs gebruik word indien die eiser die item besit en die verweerder die eiser se besit daarvan belemmer.

‘n Rei vindicatio aksie word dikwels gebruik in dispute rakende paaiementverkope, waar eienaarskap slegs bepaal word deur die betaling van die laaste paaiement of waar paaiemente nie op tyd betaal word nie. Dit gaan meestal hand aan hand met ‘n eis vir kansellasie. Met ander woorde, die verkoper kanselleer die koopooreenkoms en eis teruggawe van die item wat verkoop is.

In die geval van Absa Bank v Keet[2] het die verkoper van ‘n motorvoertuig gepoog om die koopooreenkoms te kanselleer en die teruggawe van die verkoopte voertuig te eis. Die koper van die voertuig het hierop gereageer met ‘n spesiale pleitrede dat die eis vir teruggawe van die voertuig reeds verjaar het.

Die rede vir sy aanspraak dat die eis reeds verjaar het, was dat die ooreenkoms waarop die verkoper gedagvaar het tot ‘n einde sou kom op die datum waarop hy aangevoer het dat die uitstaande bedrag verskuldig en betaalbaar geword het, en dit was meer as drie jaar sedert daardie bedrag verskuldig geword het.

In die geval van Staegemann v Langenhoven[3] is daar beslis dat ‘n verdedigende eis nie na drie jaar verjaar nie. Die Hoërhof in die Keet geval het beslis dat hierdie saak se beslissing foutief was, want indien Staegemann korrek was, “kon die Bank sy aanspraak op die trekker vir nog ‘n dekade en selfs langer terughou, om daarna teruggawe van die voertuig te eis sodat dit sy skadevergoeding kon bereken”.

In die Keet geval moes die Hooggeregshof besluit of die Hoërhof korrek was in sy mening dat die verkoper se eis om teruggawe van sy besitting ‘n “skuld” is, wat vir die doeleindes van die Verjaringswet na drie jaar verjaar.

Die Hooggeregshof het ‘n belangrike onderskeid tussen uitwissende en verkrygende verjaring gemaak ten einde tot ‘n finale besluit te kom. Uitwissende verjaring handel oor ‘n krediteur se reg van optrede teen ‘n skuldenaar, wat ‘n persoonlike reg is. Aan die ander kant handel verkrygende verjaring oor die verkryging van ware regte tot eiendom (in terme van die Verjaringswet kan ‘n persoon eienaarskap van eiendom verkry na 30 jaar van ononderbroke besit). Ware regte is hoofsaaklik gemoeid met die verhouding tussen ‘n persoon en ‘n item, terwyl persoonlike regte gemoeid is met die verhouding tussen twee persone.

Die persoon wat geregtig is op ‘n ware reg oor ‘n item kan, deur middel van verdedigende aksie, daardie item van enige individu eis wat met sy regte inmeng. Sodanige reg is die reg tot eienaarskap. Indien die reg egter nie absoluut is nie, maar slegs relatief tot die item, sodat dit slegs afdwingbaar is teen ‘n gedetermineerde individu of groep individue, is dit ‘n persoonlike reg.[4]

Die Hooggeregshof is daarom van mening dat, om ‘n verdedigende aksie as ‘n “skuld” te oorweeg wat na drie jaar verjaar, teenstrydig is met die skema van die Wet en dat dit die waarde van die onderskeid wat die Verjaringswet tref tussen uitwissende verjaring en verkrygende verjaring ondermyn. Met ander woorde, wat die krediteur verloor as gevolg van die uitvoer van uitwissende verjaring is sy reg tot optrede teen die skuldenaar, wat ‘n persoonlike reg is. Die krediteur verloor nie ‘n reg tot ‘n item nie.

Die Hooggeregshof het dit derhalwe duidelik gemaak dat om die verdedigende aksie gelyk te stel met ‘n “skuld”, dit die onopsetlike en absurde gevolg het dat die skuldenaar, deur middel van uitwissende verjaring, eienaarskap van die krediteur se eiendom verkry na drie jaar in plaas van dertig jaar. Die verdedigende aksie verjaar dus nie na drie jaar nie.

[1] (817/13) [2015] ZASCA 81 (28 Mei 2015)
[2] (817/13) [2015] ZASCA 81 (28 Mei 2015)
[3] Staegemann v Langenhoven & ander 2011 (5) SA 648 (WCC).
[4] Wessels Law of Contract in South Africa 2de uitgawe vol 1 p 3-4.

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies. (E&OE)