Harmonising Legal Values and uBuntu: The Quest for Social Justice in the South African Common Law of Contract

Keywords: Bona fides, common law of contract, contractual fairness, good faith, legal historical comparison, legal pluralism, Roman law of contract, ubuntu


In this article, a comparison is drawn between the role of good faith in the development of the Roman law of contract and the emerging role of ubuntu in the South African common law of contract. Firstly, it is shown how the idea of good faith as an open norm in Roman law was inspired by Greek philosophy and it is argued that ubuntu as an underlying value of the customary law can infuse good faith in the common law of contract in similar fashion. Secondly, an important distinction between the two concepts is identified. Although both concepts promote contractual justice between the contracting parties, ubuntu entails a further duty to promote the social and economic well-being of the parties as well as that of the greater community. Hence, in contrast to good faith, ubuntu is concerned with the promotion of substantive equality in private dealings.




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