oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Public policy : the origin of a general clause in the South African law of contract

Volume 19, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



The article relates how the Constitutional Court has chosen public policy as the general clause with which to combat unfairness in contracting. Consequently the historical development of public policy is investigated in the footsteps of Wessels, who was the first South African author to address the role of public policy in the law of contract in a wider sense. The historical sources on contracts in restraint of marriage, marriage brokerage contracts, usurious contracts, contracts in restraint of trade and wagering contracts are analysed with regard to public policy. Although some Roman-law and Roman-Dutch authority can be found in certain instances, the main observation is that public policy and have not been clearly distinguished by modern writers dealing with these jurisdictions. The conclusion of the paper is that public policy as an open norm is an English transplant.

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