n Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg - Towards effective judicial review of state commercial activity

Volume 2009, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0257-7747
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2207



The state today participates in the market in a myriad ways - whether in a local capitalist market economy or the international market. It buys and sells goods and services ; employs a massive workforce; acquires, develops and disposes of land; engages in various financial transactions; sets up companies, holds shares and enters into partnerships. These activities account for large slices of domestic and international commercial activity, making them highly relevant from a commercial law point of view. But they are also of particular relevance from a constitutional perspective. Significant parts of the state's traditional public duties are closely bound up with its commercial activities. These links vary from basic acquisitions of goods used to carry out public functions to the direct use of commercial activity to fulfil such functions. A state department may utilise commercial forms institutionally by setting up a state-owned commercial vehicle to perform the particular function or transactionally by contracting with a service provider or even directly with citizens. It becomes important to consider state commercial conduct from a public law perspective when one considers judicial review as a central constitutional mechanism to control the exercise of public power and facilitate the achievement of public functions. Although this perspective has indeed long been recognised in privatisation debates and the state in commercial guise has become a familiar international feature, courts in most common law jurisdictions, including South Africa, still struggle to effectively deal with state commercial activity in terms of their judicial review function.

Geregtelike hersiening is 'n belangrike grondwetlike meganisme om alle staatsoptrede te beheer. Dit behoort dus ook op kommersiële staatsoptrede van toepassing te wees. Die belang van effektiewe staatsadministrasie mag egter perke aan geregtelike hersiening van kommersiële staatsoptrede stel. Sodanige perke kan uitgewerk word aan die hand van die remedies wat toegestaan word in sodanige hersieningsaansoeke. Die buigsaamheid van die verstekremedie by geregtelike hersiening, nl tersydestelling, laat voldoende ruimte vir ontwikkeling van 'n eiesoortige benadering by kommersiële staatsoptrede. Volgens hierdie benadering behoort tersydestelling slegs voor te kom waar die optrede objektief buite die staatsorgaan se magte was.
In alle ander gevalle behoort regsekerheid in die handhawing van die transaksie bo tersydestelling gestel te word. Voorwaardelike tersydestelling, met die staatsorgaan se eie herevaluering van die betrokke besluit as voorwaarde, kan ook sinvol tersydestelling beperk. By tersydestelling van tenderprosedures moet die geldigheid van die daaropvolgende staatskontrak versigtig benader word. Dit volg nie noodwendig outomaties dat sodanige tersydestelling ook die kontrak vernietig nie.
Vergoeding is nie 'n gepaste remedie by hersiening van kommersiële staatsoptrede nie. 'n Litigant behoort eerder op privaatregtelike gronde 'n hof te nader indien skadevergoeding verlang word voortspruitend uit kommersiële staatsoptrede. Uiteindelik kan 'n besinning oor remedies nie net help om die behoorlike rol van howe in hersiening van kommersiële staatsoptrede uit te werk nie, maar ook om te verstaan wat die reg tot regverdige administratiewe optrede in artikel 33 van die grondwet in hierdie konteks beteken.

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