Month: March 2014

Don’t speed through life

A2blJack Louw was used to driving fast cars – he was practically born with one foot on the accelerator. Jack was also born into a very rich family, which meant there was always money to pay for the fines he kept receiving for exceeding the speed limit.

However, Jack’s luck would soon change and he might end up with more than a fine.

According to the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 and the Regulations published on 17 March 2000, the general speed limits are: 60 km/h on a public road within an urban area; 100 km/h on a public road outside an urban area which is not a freeway, and 120 km/h on every freeway.

Prosecution or the imposition of a spot fine is automatic if you are caught exceeding the 60km/h and general speed limits. However, if you speed in a 60km/h zone, and it is greater than 100km/h, you will not have the option of paying an admission-of-guilt fine, but will have to appear in court to answer a charge of reckless or dangerous driving and contravention of the Act.

Depending on the seriousness of the offence, you may or may not be given the alternative of an admission-of-guilt fine as opposed to having to appear in Court. An admission-of-guilt fine is a fine that a person is issued with after admitting guilt. It may seem like an easy exit to all problems. However, once admitting guilt, the person will have a criminal record.

Admission-of-guilt fines for speeding are calculated on the basis of rands per km/h in excess of the speed limit. These fines may be paid at any office of the South African Police Service in the Magisterial district where the offence occurred, by the date stipulated on the notice that will be posted to you within two weeks after you received the ticket. You must produce the ticket when paying the fine.

Should you choose not to pay the admission-of-guilt fine, but rather state your case in court, you should check the fine to ascertain the date on which you must appear in Court and the case number. Queries about the fine must be directed to the clerk of the criminal court of the Magisterial district of issue, and the actual document must accompany your query.

It is important to take notice of the speed you are driving. It may be important for you to get to your destination in time, but is it worth paying a fine, or having a criminal record? It is also important to remember that if you get a fine in a town other than your home town, you will have to travel back to that town to appear in court.

Think before admitting guilt to a speeding offence, or even better, think twice before committing an offence that would put you in that position.

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.

Review of directors’ decisions

A3blIn the previous article regarding “informal” decisions by directors, we considered what acts or decisions may be considered as informal decisions by directors.

The precedents established by the courts were discussed, which precedents are considered regarding the enforceability of these “consents” and the validity of informal decisions by directors.

Directors of homeowners’ associations have been forewarned to be diligent and carefully choose their words in conversations with other members, especially when these members paint pictures of proposed building projects. And more specifically, directors are to keep their opinion for the debate of the properly tabled application, especially concerning additions and alterations to the property of the member. The rules of the homeowners’ association regarding aesthetics and other such requirements should be paramount in the decision-making process.

But what if the member did comply with the prescribed formal requirements and the board of directors did not approve the request? Where does that leave the directors and the member?

The courts will not interfere with the decision made by a homeowners’ association save on recognised grounds of judicial review as applied to voluntary associations whose members have bound themselves to its rules, which include the conferring of decision–making functions of elected body of directors (Turner vs Jockey Club of South Africa 1974 (3) SA; SA Medical & Dental Council vs McLoughlin 1948 (2) SA 355 (AD) and Marlin vs Durban Turf Club & Others 1942 AD 112). 

The grounds of judicial review are restricted to whether the tribunal was competent to make the decision and whether it complied with the requirements of procedural and substantive fairness which effectively is limited to whether the procedure or decision taken was tainted by irregularity or illegality – unfairness per se is not enough (Bel Porto School Governing Body & Others vs Premier, Western Cape & Another 2002 (3) SA). 

The traditional common law grounds of review of a voluntary association tribunal include illegality, procedural unfairness and irrationality. Prior to the constitutional dispensation, the ambit of the voluntary associations had been settled in case law. The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, Act 3 of 2000 (PAJA) applies to administrative action on the part of an organ of state or a juristic person exercising a public power or performing a public function.  Accordingly, directors of homeowners’ associations do not fall within the scope of the PAJA.  Section 39(2) of the Constitution on the other hand, requires a court, when developing the common law, to promote the spirit, purport and objectives of the Bill of Rights.

The judgement in the matter of Theron and Andere vs Ring van Wellington van die NG Sending Kerk in Suid-Afrika en Andere 1976 (2) SA 1 (A) has already confirmed that a reasonableness test based on rationality was a competent basis under the common law powers to review decisions of voluntary associations. The court will therefore consider a ground of review that included unreasonableness in the sense that the decision could not reasonably be supported by evidence. There appears to be no difference in principle for present purposes between common law grounds of review in relation to voluntary associations and the grounds of review provided for by PAJA.

Various case laws confirm that a court will only interfere with the decision of the directors of a homeowners’ association where that body has failed to comply with the natural justice requirements of legality, procedural fairness and reasonableness, the latter in the sense of a rational connection existing between the facts presented and the considerations that were applied in reaching the conclusion.

If the Memorandum of Incorporation or rules of the homeowners’ association prescribe a formal procedure to follow for permission or consent to be obtained regarding any alteration or other building projects, any member who did not submit a formal request for the building project, even if it is only the erection of a fence and did not include the detail of the fence to be erected for approval prior to the erection thereof, then the fence is “illegal”.

The board of directors of any homeowners’ association has an obligation to enforce the Memorandum of Association and/or the Memorandum of Incorporation and the rules of the association, and should do so in the interests of the whole of the estate and all its members.

Any building project which has been embarked on or even finished without proper procedures followed by the homeowner, and which does not comply with the aesthetical requirements of the homeowners’ association as is prescribed in the rules, are “illegal” in that the member erected the building without formally complying with the requirements of the homeowners’ association.   Directors should carefully consider each and every such building project within the jurisdiction of the association and, in the best interest of all members of the association, invite such members affected for an informal, amicable discussion regarding the removal or further alteration of the building or building project, even if it is only a fence and the time periods to do so. It is important to note that such members should still be obliged to comply with the formal requirements as prescribed by the association. These applications can be tabled in terms of the formal procedures prescribed with consideration to formally consent thereto retrospectively by the board of directors on condition that all prescriptive requirements have been fully met, even if it is merely aesthetically.

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.

So when am I authorised to act as trustee?

A4blThe Trust Property Control Act 57 of 1988 defines a trustee as meaning “any person (including the founder of the trust) who acts as a trustee by virtue of an authorisation under Section 6.” In the matter of Lupacchini vs Minister of Safety and Security (16/2010) [2010], ZASCA 108   (17 September 2010), the position of a trustee acting without the authorisation of the Master was considered, where that “trustee” authorised legal proceedings.

A trust that is established by a trust deed is not a legal person – it is a legal relationship of a special kind that is described by the authors of Honoré’s South African Law of Trusts[1] as “a legal institution in which a person, the trustee, subject to public supervision, holds or administers property separately from his or her own, for the benefit of another person or persons or for the furtherance of a charitable or other purpose.” 

Although the trust property vests in each trustee individually they have to act jointly unless the deed of trust provides otherwise. Their individual interests do not waive the requirement that they have to act jointly.

The consequence of the validity of an act that has taken place in conflict with a statutory prohibition has been considered in numerous cases, and depends on a proper construction of the particular legislation and the intention of the legislature.

The whole scheme of the act is to provide a manner in which the Master can supervise trustees in the proper administration of trusts, and their knowledge of Article 6(1) is essential to such purpose, and by placing a bar on trustees from acting as such until authorised by the Master, the Act endeavours to ensure that trustees can only act as such if they comply with the Act.

In the Kropman NO vs Nysschen[2] it was held that a court has the discretion to retrospectively validate acts of a trustee that are performed without the requisite authority. This proposition was in later cases rejected persuasively.

“Locus standi in iudicio” on the other hand is something else and does not depend on the authority to act but depends on whether the litigant is regarded by the court as having a sufficiently close interest in the litigation.

Although section 6(1) suspends a trustee’s power to act in that capacity he or she could have a sufficiently well-defined and close interest in the administration of the trust to have locus standi.

The essence of the prohibitory phrase in section 6(1), “… shall act in that capacity only if authorised thereto …”, must be interpreted to mean that a trustee may not, prior to the Masters authorisation, acquire rights for, or contractually incur liabilities on behalf of, the trust and is not intended to regulate questions of locus standi in iudicio.’

Legal proceedings commenced by unauthorised trustees and commercial transactions binding the trust are invalid and void.

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.


[1] 5th ed (2002) by Edwin Cameron with Marius de Waal, Basil Wunsh and Peter Solomon para 1.

[2] 1999 (2) SA 567 (T) at 576F.

The interplay between the Consumer Protection Act and the National Credit Act

A1blTHE POSSIBILITY OF PENALTIES WITH EARLY SETTLEMENT OF CREDIT AGREEMENTS.

Mr Black buys a BMW car in terms of a hire purchase agreement and the financing is done through BMW Finance.

After a few months Mr Black inherits a huge sum of money and decides that he wants to settle the outstanding amount.

Mr Black’s concern is whether the credit provider is entitled to charge a penalty fee for early settlement of the outstanding finance amount.

The first step in answering the abovementioned question will be to determine which laws regulate the situation. The legislation that applies here will be the National Credit Act 34 of 2005 and the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008.

In the above scenario a distinction should be drawn between the scope of each of these Acts, as the one pertains to the credit agreement itself and the other to the goods, being the BMW car. Section 5 of the Consumer Protection Act lists the situations in which this Act will apply. Section 5(2)(d) is of particular interest to Mr Black as it excludes credit agreements which are regulated by the National Credit Act. However, the goods or services provided in terms of the credit agreement are included and will be regulated by the Consumer Protection Act, whereas credit agreements as contemplated in the National Credit Act, specifically section 8(4)(c), includes hire purchase agreements (instalment agreements) in the ambit of the National Credit Act.

Mr Black’s situation illustrates the position as stated in Article 5(2)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act. The implication of this section is that all credit agreements that are subject to the National Credit Act will be governed by the National Credit Act, but the goods and services in terms of the agreement will fall within the scope of the Consumer Protection Act. It is here that the above acts overlap with each other. The overlap actually lies in that both acts can apply to one agreement. The credit agreement must comply with the National Credit Act, but the goods and services must comply with the Consumer Protection Act. If there is a defect in the quality of the goods or the service the Consumer Protection Act will provide the appropriate remedy, but if it is about the credit agreement itself, then the National Credit Act will apply.

Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act deals with the interpretation of the Act and more specifically on how the law has to be interpreted in cases where there are discrepancies between the Consumer Protection Act and any other law. The Consumer Protection Act should be read in harmony with other legislation as far as possible, but if it is not possible, then the law that offers the most protection to the consumer shall apply.

The two sections in the National Credit Act which deals with the early settlement of credit agreements are sections 122 and 125 of the Act. According to section 122 of the National Credit Act, a consumer may terminate the credit agreement at any time. The consumer can do this by paying the settlement amount as calculated in accordance with section 125 of the National Credit Act.

Section 125 states that a consumer is entitled to cancel a credit agreement at any time with or without prior notice to the credit provider. The settlement amount will be the sum of the following amounts:

  • The outstanding balance of the principal debt / capital amount.
  • All rates and charges up to and including the settlement date. For example, if the outstanding amount can be settled after 3 months, then 3 months’ interest would be charged. The interest will be calculated on the principal amount borrowed. 

In the case of a large credit agreement (R250 000.00 or more) the outstanding amount will be calculated as above, but with additional interest, known as an early settlement fee. The fee may not exceed an amount equal to three months’ interest on the capital amount.

Conclusion:

Therefore, if the BMW that Mr Black bought was worth more than R250 000.00 the credit provider will be entitled to charge a penalty fee of not more than 3 months’ interest on the capital amount. In the event that the purchased item’s worth is less than R250 000.00 the credit provider will not be entitled to charge a penalty fee.

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.

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