1887

oa Litnet Akademies : 'n Joernaal vir die Geesteswetenskappe, Natuurwetenskappe, Regte en Godsdienswetenskappe - 'n Oorsig van die aard, ontwikkeling en invloed van statutêre moratoria in Suid-Afrika gedurende die eerste helfte van die 20ste eeu : regte

 

Abstract

Oor 'n tydperk van meer as 3 000 jaar is veral in krisistye van buitengewone regsfigure of billikheidsremedies gebruik gemaak om deur respyt onderstand te verleen aan persone wat as gevolg van omstandighede buite hul beheer nie in staat is om hul verpligtinge reëlmatig na te kom nie. Hierdie regsfigure word generies na verwys as moratoria, respytmaatreëls of siviele onderstand.


Die belang van die statutêre moratoria tydens die Eerste Wêreldoorlog is basies tweeledig van aard.
Eerstens is die heel eerste Suid-Afrikaanse algemene moratorium op kontraktuele verpligting, naamlik vooroorlogse skulde, in wetgewing vergestalt wat sterk herinner aan gemeenregtelike soos (oftewel ) en .
Tweedens het die moratorium wat deur wetgewing verleen is aan soldate en ander lede van die Unie-verdedigingsmag op aktiewe diens, nie die Engelse voorbeeld gevolg nie, maar was dit geskoei op die reëling voorsien in die Wet voor den Krijgsdiens in de Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek van 1898 gedurende die Anglo-Boere-oorlog. Laasgenoemde weerspieël weer die bepalings van die Placcaet Raeckende alle Leger-Personen uitgereik deur die Prins van Oranje op 7 Mei 1630 en soortgelyke vroeër reëlings in die Romeins-Hollandse reg.
Gedurende die Tweede Wêreldoorlog is die betrokke bepalings van die Openbare Welzijn en Moratorium Wetten 1914-1919 weer aangewend om onderstand te verleen aan soldate op aktiewe diens. Sodoende is aan die howe die geleentheid gegee om voort te bou op die vorige regspraak by die uitleg van hierdie bepalings. Dit het aan die einde van die Tweede Wêreldoorlog 'n redelik gesofistikeerde regsposisie tot gevolg gehad wat op plaaslike omstandighede afgestem was. Hierdie statutêre bepalings het die basis gevorm vir alle latere Suid-Afrikaanse moratoriumwetgewing van dié aard.
Die ontleding van die ontwikkeling van hierdie statutêre reëling vorm die hooftema van hierdie bydrae. Onder andere word die baie belangrike verband tussen die opskorting van siviele regsremedies en die uitstel van kontraktuele verpligtinge beklemtoon, en Hollandse jurisprudensie wat geneig was om hierdie oorsaaklikheid te ignoreer, word gekritiseer.


For centuries Western and other legal systems have made use of equitable devices postponing obligations and suspending legal remedies, especially for the benefit of persons unable to meet their obligations in time owing to exceptional circumstances not of their own doing. These devices are usually generically referred to as moratoria, stay laws or civil relief.
The moratoria introduced during the First World War by the Public Welfare and Moratorium Act of 1914 may be seen as unique, primarily for two reasons.
First, it provided for the first South African general moratorium on contractual obligations, in this instance pre-war debts. It authorised the courts to grant a moratorium in their discretion on a pre-war debt to persons who, although solvent, were not able to comply in time with their obligations as a consequence of the war conditions. The onus was on the debtor to prove that the obligation had been contracted before 4 August 1914 and that he was not able to comply with his obligations as a direct or indirect result of the circumstance consequent upon the war. This or statutory largesse for dilatory debtors had a strong similarity to the for impecunious debtors in Roman-Dutch law, such as (or ) and . Although the courts relied on various principles and concepts underlying these in the interpretation of the statutory moratoria, this particular provision was not re-enacted during the Second World War or later, either during a proclaimed state of emergency or during an armed conflict in which South Africa became engaged.
Secondly, the moratorium that was legislated in 1914 for soldiers and other members of the Union defence force on active service, although not unusual, did not follow the English example, but was based on the arrangement provided by the Wet voor den Krijgsdiens in de Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek of 1898 during the Anglo-Boer War. The latter in turn reflects the provisions of the Placcaet Raeckende alle Leger-Personen issued by the Prince of Orange on 7 May 1630 and similar earlier arrangements in Roman-Dutch and Roman law.
Although the soldiers' moratorium was first introduced as an absolute arrangement without any restrictions, this soon proved to be impracticable. Successive amendment acts introduced and refined numerous exceptions, relating, for example, to rent, board and lodging, food and other necessities of life, interest, prescription, desertion, surety and partnership. The basic moratorium and some of these exceptions were canvassed in detail by the courts.
During the Second World War the relevant provisions of the Public Welfare and Moratorium Acts 1914-1919 were re-enacted to provide civil relief to soldiers and other members of the Union defence force on voluntary active service. This provided an excellent opportunity to South African courts to further refine and develop the interpretation of the various statutory provisions, building on judgements handed down during the First World War. In some cases the interaction between jurisprudence and amending legislation resulted in the expeditious introduction of solutions to problematic legal positions. Here especially the position of partnerships with only some partners entitled to relief comes to mind.
At the end of the Second World War the result of this interaction was a developed and fairly sophisticated legal position based on legislation attuned to South African conditions.
The statutory arrangement developed during the two world wars was adopted as the basis for successive South African stay and moratory laws, in preference to the more modern and far more comprehensive and detailed examples provide for the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of the United States, for example.
An analysis of the development of this statutory arrangement forms the main theme of this contribution. Inter alia, the very important connection between the suspension of civil legal remedies and the postponement of contractual obligations is stressed and Dutch jurisprudence that tended to ignore this causality is criticised.

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/content/litnet/9/3/EJC129834
2012-12-01
2016-12-08
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