Interpretation Before and After Natal Joint Municipal Pension Fund v Endumeni Municipality 2012 4 SA 593 (SCA)

  • Malcolm Wallis
Keywords: Interpretation of statutes, Endumeni Municipality, Endumeni, background, effect, interpretation, text, context, objective iterative process, sensible construction


This article explores the background to the decision in Natal Joint Municipal Pension Fund v Endumeni Municipality 2012 4 SA 593 (SCA), some of its conceptual content and its broader implications for future jurisprudence in regard to the interpretation of documents. It illustrates the reality that in the past interpretation in different areas of the law was undertaken in accordance with differing standards even though all areas involved the interpretation of language in common everyday use, and questions the need to approach issues of interpretation in a way different from that used in conventional language. The internal inconsistencies of past authority are highlighted, as well as the trend in South African jurisprudence and overseas towards a single, simple and coherent approach to interpretation. The importance of recognising the role of both text and context is stressed, and the identification of relevant context in interpreting contracts and statutes is addressed. The article identifies two animating principles underlying the approach to interpretation in Endumeni, viz.: the discipline it imposes on judges to explain their decisions in regard to interpretation rather than starting with an a priori meaning and buttressing it with authority, and the desirability of a single, clear and simple standard by which to approach issues of interpretation.



Author Biography

Malcolm Wallis

SC, Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal

Honorary Professor of Law in the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


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Special Edition: Legal Interpretation after Endumeni