n Stellenbosch Law Review = Stellenbosch Regstydskrif - Towards the application of the precautionary principle in South African law

Volume 26, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1016-4359
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2193



The precautionary principle has gained general acceptance in international, regional and a number of domestic jurisdictions. In South Africa the principle has found a tentative foothold in legislation and case law but generally has had limited practical application. Much needed economic development in the country has seen, amongst other things the enactment of the Infrastructure Development Act 23 of 2014 to promote large infrastructural developments. This article outlines the development and importance of the precautionary principle in international law, its incorporation into in some regional and domestic jurisdictions, such as the EU, Canada, and Australia and motivates for it to be given serious consideration in South Africa's development agenda. It points out that the principle is fundamental to furthering the global ideal of long term sustainable development, a constitutionally mandated goal in South Africa. The principle is therefore a vital constituent in the decision-making process of all proposed future large scale infrastructural developments such as nuclear power stations and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") undertakings. In short, it is argued that the time is ripe for the more robust application of the principle, particularly where administrative decision-making entails large-scale developments having a potentially significant bearing on sustainable development.

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