PAIA: POLITICAL PARTIES MUST DISCLOSE FUNDING

The Western Cape High Court has ruled that political parties must disclose their funding. This has come after public-interest group My Vote Counts sought a declaration that information about the private funding of political parties is reasonably required for the effective exercise of the right to vote in Section 19(3)(a) of the Bill of Rights.

Furthermore, they sought a declaration that the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2 of 2000 (“PAIA”) is inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid, insofar as it does not allow for the continuous and systematic recordal and disclosure of private funding information of political parties.

The Court ordered the following:

  1. It is declared that information about the private funding of political parties and independent ward candidates (the latter concept as contemplated in section 16 of the Local Government:  Municipal Electoral Act, 27 of 2000) (“independent candidates”)registered for elections for any legislative body established under the Constitution (“private funding information”) is reasonably required for the effective exercise of the right to vote in such elections and to make political choices, in terms of sections 19(1), 19(3), 32 and 7(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act No 108 of 1996 (“the Constitution”);
  2. It is declared that the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2 of 2000 (“PAIA”)is inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid insofar as it does not allow for the recordal and disclosure of private funding information;
  3. The declaration of invalidity in paragraph 2 above is suspended for 18 months in order to allow Parliament to remedy the defects in PAIA and to allow for the recordal and disclosure of private funding of political parties and independent candidates;

Reference:

  • My Vote Counts NPC v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others (13372/2016) [2017] ZAWCHC 105 (27 September 2017)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

THE BASICS OF ESTATE DUTY

When a person dies, they leave behind an estate which includes everything they own. Estate Duty is payable on the estate of every person who dies and whose nett estate is in excess of R3,5 million. It is charged at the rate of 20%. Currently, SARS is responsible for collecting the Estate Duty of a deceased person.

How does an estate get reported to SARS?

Even if Estate Duty does not apply to you, it is still necessary to inform SARS that the person is deceased. It is recommended that you consult with a legal expert when going through such as process.

Copies of the following documents must be sent to SARS:

  • Death certificate or death notice.
  • Identity document of the deceased.
  • Letters of Executorship (J238) (if applicable).
  • Letter of Authority (J170) (in cases where the estate is less than R250 000).
  • Certified copy of the executor’s identity document.
  • Power of attorney (if applicable).
  • The name, address and contact details of the executor or agent.
  • The last Will and Testament of the deceased.
  • An inventory of the deceased’s assets.
  • The liquidation and distribution accounts (if available).

These documents may be sent to the relevant Centralised Processing Centres that is closest to the Master of the High Court where the estate is being administered.

How does Estate Duty work in relation to an inheritance?

All income received or accrued before the deceased’s death is taxable in the hands of the deceased up until the date of death, and will be administered by the executor or administrator acting as the deceased’s representative taxpayer.

  • After the date of death of a person, a new taxable entity comes into existence – the “estate”.
  • The assets of the deceased will be held by the estate until the liquidation and distribution account has lain for inspection and become final under section 35(12) of the Administration of Estates Act after which the assets will be either handed over to the heirs or delivered to the trustee of a trust estate.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

DEMYSTIFYING THE EXECUTOR IN A DECEASED ESTATE

During a person’s lifetime s/he will gather assets, in other words, belongings such as a house or a motor vehicle. These assets and liabilities will form part of a person’s estate. At the death of that person, his/her deceased estate must be administered, in other words, divided, distributed and controlled by someone. This person is called an executor.

However, the role of an estate executor and who can be appointed as one has been largely misunderstood.

What does the executor do?

“Executor” is the legal term for referring to the person, or people, nominated in your will to carry out the directives you set out in your will.

  1. This means that it is the executor’s responsibility to disburse your property to the mentioned beneficiaries in your will, but also obtain information on potential heirs, collecting and arranging payments, and approving or disapproving creditors’ claims.
  2. It is the executor’s duty to calculate and pay the estate tax, and to ensure that the correct documentation is filed with the relevant authorities.
  3. The executor is the individual that represents your estate.

Who can be appointed as the executor?

It has become normal to appoint a friend, family member or beneficiary to act as the executor, as they most likely have intimate knowledge of your estate and your affairs, but also, they will not rack up the fees that a legal body might accrue.

However, there is a misconception that you can avoid the fees by appointing a family member as the estate executor, but this could also mean that you are deferring the cost to the nominated family member.

  1. Family members appointed as executors on larger estates immediately find themselves out of their depth, and not only end up hiring a professional executor, but may also pay more for these services than necessary.
  2. A simple way to address this is by appointing a “professional” executor during your lifetime. This allows you to negotiate the executor fees.

If you appoint a family member, make sure that they understand that they will have to appoint a professional agent, and that they should negotiate the fee and be very cautious of agreeing to a fee arrangement in terms of which the professional agent charges their professional fee, instead of the legislated scale.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

AWAITING YOUR DEPOSIT

What to know when your landlord has your deposit and has failed to pay it out

You have viewed the new property and secured it by paying the correct deposit amount to the landlord. With the transition into your new space being as breezy as it was, no red flags were raised as to how your landlord could trick you going forward. How do you approach a situation where your landlord won’t pay you back your deposit after you move out?

Firstly, a pre- and post-occupation inspection of the rental space must be completed before and after the tenant moves in. This inspection is the landlord’s responsibility and if he or she does not conduct the said inspection, they are then unable to claim against the tenant upon the lease expiration. The Rental Housing Act states that the tenant has the right not to have their home or property searched by the landlord, and thus, the landlord must give reasonable notice for inspection 3 days before the lease ends.

Regarding deposits, section 5 of the RHA states that, should there be damages incurred by the tenant under the said lease needing repair after the post-occupation inspection, the landlord must refund the remaining deposit amount, if any, to the tenant within 14 days. In the case where no claims for damages have been made by the landlord, and the tenant is debt free in terms of charges and rent, the deposit must be refunded within seven days following the lease expiration. A tenant who refuses to take part in the inspection process, and damages have been found, is liable to receive their remaining deposit 21 days from the expiration of the lease.

If a landlord refuses or has failed to refund the tenant their deposit, the tenant may approach the Rental Housing Tribunal.

References

  • Rental Housing Act No. 50 of 1999. (2017). [PDF] Cape Town: Republic of South Africa, pp.6-7. Available at: https://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/a50-99.pdf [Accessed 20 Nov. 2017].

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

THE RIGHTS OF A DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP

Domestic partnerships, also known as cohabitation relationships, are becoming more common in our modern day society, and it therefore becomes ever more important for parties to understand the different legal implications of being married and merely cohabiting. Parties to a domestic partnership do not enjoy the same legal protection as married couples upon termination of the partnership with regards to maintenance claims, property division or succession.

In the South African legal system, there are three forms of fully legally recognised unions, namely marriages, civil unions and customary marriages. However, in our modern society it is becoming more common for couples to live together in domestic partnerships, without ever getting married. It is important for parties to these partnerships to realise that little to no legal protection is provided upon the termination of such a relationship, either by agreement or due to the death of either party.

The general rule for domestic partnerships was laid down in Butters v Mncora: A domestic partnership does not give rise to any special legal consequences, such as that of a marriage or a civil union.

In 2006, the South African Law Reform Commission acknowledged the need for legal protection to be granted and drafted the “Draft Domestic Partnership Bill.” Parliament has however shown no urgency to pass the Draft Bill, and the legal position in South Africa thus remains unchanged.

Maintenance claims

The Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act entitles a surviving spouse of a marriage, and a surviving civil partner of a civil union, to institute a claim for maintenance against the estate of the deceased. This provides for a claim of any reasonable maintenance needs that they cannot provide for by their own means, until such time that they remarry or pass away.

Parties of a domestic partnership should note that this protection does not extend to domestic partnerships, and thus no such maintenance claim can be made. Should the Domestic Partnership Bill be enacted in the future, section 28 will offer such an opportunity to claim for maintenance. However, at this stage no such protection is afforded.

Property Division

Parties to a marriage have a choice of two matrimonial property regimes.  Simply put this is to be married either in community of property, or out of community of property. Each property system will have different consequences flowing from it either by law or contractually due to an Antenuptial contract. However, no property regimes exist for domestic partnerships, and thus no joint estate can exist as it would in a marriage.

The Supreme Court of Appeal has recently portrayed an increased willingness to extend contract-based legal protection to parties of a domestic partnerships. Contracts can be concluded by parties in domestic partnerships to govern aspects such as division of property upon termination of the partnership. Although these types of contracts are legally enforceable, they may give rise to potential problems. The contract may be concluded solely for the benefit of one of the parties, or circumstances may occur that the parties had not anticipated when the contract was drawn up. In practice however, it seldom happens that parties to a domestic partnership actually enter into a contract.  This may be due to a mutual decision, or due to the fact that parties did not foresee a need for such contract.

Intestate Succession

In terms of the Intestate Succession Act, a spouse of a marriage will inherit if the deceased spouse dies without making a will. This has been extended to include partners of a civil union and customary marriage. Provision for inheritance by a partner of a permanent same-sex partnership has also been made in terms of this Act. This has however not been extended to the termination of heterosexual domestic partnerships, and thus no claim can be made in terms of the Intestate Succession Act on the estate of a deceased partner of a domestic partnership.

Couples living together in cohabitation relationships do not have similar rights to institute claims against the other party upon termination as they would have in a marriage or civil union. This could leave financially dependent parties in unanticipated vulnerable positions.

Reference List:

  • Butters v Mncora 2012 (4) SA 1 (SCA).
  • Barratt A “Private contract or automatic court discretion? Current trends in legal regulation of permanent life-partnerships” (2015) 26 Stellenbosch Law Review 110-131.
  • Clark B “Families and domestic partnerships” (2002) 119 South African Law Journal 634-648.
  • Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987.
  • Maintenance of Surviving Spouse Act 27 of 1990.
  • Skeleton A (ed) Family Law in South Africa (2010), Cape Town: Oxford University Press.
  • The Domestic Partnership bill in GG 30663 of 14-01-2008.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CANCELLING A CONTRACT? THE DO’S AND DONT’S TO CONSIDER!

Every person, whether an individual or a juristic person, will find themselves in a situation where they will want to terminate a contract. The aim of this article is to set out the requirements for terminating a contract as well as to give basic guidance when doing so.

When a person wants to cancel a contract, the cancelling party (innocent party) will have a choice to either cancel the contract or to enforce it. This article refers to the innocent party and the party in breach. The reader must however remember that fault it not a requirement for breach of contract.

The law regards breach of a contract as a wrongful act in itself which allows the innocent party to cancel the contract. It is important to remember that cancelling a contract is an extreme remedy that is only available in exceptional circumstances, namely where there is a cancellation clause or where the breach of contract is material or serious. If the contract is however silent on cancellation, the innocent party may still cancel the contract provided that the said breach is material or serious in nature.

The point of departure when cancelling a contract is to determine what the exact terms of the contract are, i.e. if the contract has a cancellation clause or not and whether there is a date of performance or not.

If the contract has a cancellation clause, the innocent party will be able to cancel the contract in the event of a breach of a term thereto. The innocent party must however take care not to cancel the contract incorrectly, otherwise the party in breach may interpret the cancellation as a repudiation of the contract, in which case the party in breach will also have the right to cancel the contract.

In the event where the contract does not have a cancellation clause, the innocent party will only be able to cancel the contract if the breach is material in nature. What constitutes a material breach depends on the terms of the contract. According to South African case law, a material breach is one which goes to the root of the contract and constitutes a breach of a vital term thereto.

Depending on the type of breach, the innocent party might have to give the party in breach notice of same. This will be the case where there is no date of performance specified in the contract. The innocent party must then demand performance by giving the party in breach reasonable notice to perform before he will be able to cancel the contract.

On the flip side, if a date of performance is specified in the contract, and a party does not perform in time and as stipulated, that party will be in breach, otherwise referred to as being in mora. It does however not automatically give rise to the right to cancel the contract. The only instance where there will be an automatic right to cancel a contract is if there is a cancellation clause or a suspensive condition in the contract.

A contract containing a suspensive condition will terminate automatically unless the suspensive condition is fulfilled or waived. If there is not a cancellation clause in the contract and no date of performance, the innocent party must give notice to the party in breach that time is of the essence and give him a reasonable time to perform.

In summary, the requirements for cancelling a contract vary according to the terms thereto, the type of contract and the factual scenario. There are no formalities for cancelling a contract unless the parties otherwise agree and/or a statute (i.e. Alienation of Land Act and the National Credit Act) prescribes same.

Other requirements include that the innocent party must give reasonable notice to the party in breach that they are cancelling the contract, which cancellation becomes effective from the time the cancellation comes to the attention of the party in breach.

The consequences of cancelling a contract are that the obligations to perform terminate and the parties are obligated to return what has been performed. If both parties agree to the cancellation, the preferred route would be to enter into a cancellation agreement, setting out what needs to be returned, claims for damages etcetera.

Considering that each contract and factual scenario differs and will be judged and interpreted accordingly, readers are advised to obtain legal counsel before cancelling a contract.

Reference List:

  • “Contract: General Principles” by Van Der Merwe, Van Huyssteen, Reinecke & Lubbe 2004 (Juta Law)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

TRUST LITIGATION: WHO DECIDES WHAT?

This article deals with the questions of who can institute litigation on behalf of a trust, as well as with the question of how jurisdiction is determined with regards to trusts.

Who can institute a claim?

A trust is not a legal person and cannot litigate in its own name. The trustees play a vital role in any litigation in which a trust might be involved. There are three overriding principles regarding trust administration:

  1. The trustees are obliged to give effect to the provisions of the trust deed.
  2. The trustees must perform their duties with the necessary “care, diligence and skill which can be expected of a person who manages the affairs of another”.
  3. Any person acting as a trustee must exercise discretion, where allowed, with the necessary objectivity and independence.

Section 6(1) of the Trust Property Control Act (the Act) determines the following: “any person whose appointment as trustee in terms of a trust instrument, section 7 or a court order comes into force after the commencement of the Act, shall act in that capacity only if authorised in writing by the Master”. In Watt v Sea Plant Products Bpk, Judge Conradie interpreted this section to mean that a trustee may not, prior to authorisation, acquire rights for, or contractually incur liabilities on behalf of the trust”. Thus, a trustee can only contract and institute legal proceedings in his/her capacity as trustee once a letter of authority has been issued by the Master of the High Court.

In Nieuwoudt v Vrystaat Mielies (Edms) Bpk), an agreement was held to be invalid and unenforceable because the trustees had not acted jointly nor reached a unanimous decision. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that trustees must act jointly when entering into contracts or when instituting litigation.

A trustee has a duty to vindicate trust property and to collect due debts. This duty goes hand in hand with the duty to conserve trust property and ensures that the trustee is in control of the property which forms part of the trust fund. A trustee further has locus standi to defend actions instituted against the trustee to ensure that the trust property is conserved.

Should all the trustees be joined in an action to enforce a right of the trust?

Judge Cameron held in the Goolam Ally Family Trust case that all the trustees must be joined in suing and all must be sued. Therefore, all the trustees will be joined in their official capacity when instituting legal proceedings.

In Khabola NO v Ralithabo NO, the court quoted the general rule regarding locus standi as follows: Any person who has a direct or substantial interest in the matter has the required locus standi to institute legal proceedings. The learned judge found that the underlying contractual relationship between trustees could be equated to a partnership.

Jurisdiction:

For jurisdictional purposes, a partnership “resides” at the place where its principal place of business is situated, and if the principle set out in abovementioned case is followed – a trust also “resides” where its principal place of business is situated.

In Bonugli v The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited, the court referred to section 5 of the Act  which determines that a person whose appointment as trustee comes into effect after the commencement of this act, shall furnish the Master with an address for the service upon him of notices and process and shall, in case of change of address, within 14 days notify the Master by registered post of the new address. The cause of action arose in Johannesburg, and one of the defendants (a trustee in his representative capacity) was resident in Australia. The address which was used in the summons was the address given to the Master in terms of section 5 of the Act. A special plea with regards to lack of jurisdiction was raised, but the Cape Town High Court found that it had the necessary jurisdiction to hear the matter.

There are considerable differences between a partnership and a trust, but with regards to jurisdiction the general principles applicable to a partnership can also be applied to a trust – namely considerations of convenience and common sense for its conclusion to entertain a claim. The Cape Town High Court had jurisdiction to hear the Bonugli matter because the first defendant was resident within its jurisdiction, and because the address listed in terms of section 5 of the Act was within the jurisdiction. Considerations of common sense and convenience also required that the court should adjudicate the issue between the plaintiff and all the defendants.  It would have been impractical to institute a claim based on the same set of facts in two different courts, because the trustees were resident in different courts’ jurisdictions.

There remains some uncertainty regarding which court should have jurisdiction to hear a claim instituted by a trust or a claim against a trust. There appears to be three possibilities in this regard: Firstly, if the Bonugli judgment was followed, the residency of one trustee should be sufficient to establish jurisdiction. Secondly, the address provided in terms of Section 5 of the Act could be used to establish jurisdiction. Thirdly, the court where the trust’s principle place of business is situated could have jurisdiction. Hopefully the position regarding which court has jurisdiction to hear claims instituted by a trust or against a trust will be properly aired in the courts soon, to provide more certainty regarding this aspect.

Reference List:

Books:

  • Lexisnexis Trust Law and Practice, P A Olivier, S Strydom, GPJ van den Berg, October 2017
  • Civil Procedure: A Practical Guide, Petè, Hulme, Du Plessis, Palmer, Sibanda, Oxford University Press.

Acts:

  • Trust Property Control Act 57 of 1988

Cases:

  • Watt v Sea Plant Products Bpk (1998) 4 All SA 109 (C)
  • Nieuwoudt v Vrystaat Mielies (Edms) Bpk)
  • Goolam Ally Family Trust t/a Textile, Curtaining and Trimming v Textile, Curtaining and Trimming (Pty) Ltd 1989 (4) SA 985 (C) at 988D-E
  • Khabola NO v Ralithabo NO (5512/2010) (2011) ZAFSHC 62 (24 March 2011)
  • Bonugli v The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited 266/2011) (2012) ZASCA 48 (30 March 2012)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

PROPERLY EXECUTING A WILL IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT

I gave instructions to my attorney to prepare a last will and testament for me as my will no longer reflected my wishes. At my request, my attorney emailed the will to me with clear instructions as to how I should go about signing it. I asked my neighbours to act and sign as witnesses. My neighbours signed the will on all the pages and left before I signed. I then signed the will on all the pages. I am now worried about the validity of my will as the email from my attorney states that I have to sign the will in the presence of two witnesses. Is my will valid?

The formalities for the valid execution of a will are set out in the Wills Act. Section 2 of the Wills Act, Act 7 of 1953, reads: “No will executed… shall be valid unless the will is signed at the end thereof by the testator… and such signature is made by the testator… in the presence of two or more competent witnesses present at the same time and such witnesses attest and sign the will in the presence of the testator and of each other…”. Therefore, in order for a will to be valid, it has to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses, both witnesses being present when the will is signed by the testator. The two witnesses signed your will in the presence of each other, but not in your presence.

A similar set of facts presented itself in a court case recently heard by the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court. In this matter, the two daughters of the deceased, who lost out on their inheritance in terms of the will of their father, claimed that it was never their father’s intention for his much younger lover to inherit his total estate. The testator was 85 years old at the time of his death and he had been living with a woman 38 years his junior for 8 years.

The deceased executed two wills during his lifetime. One on 6 November 2011 (“the 2011 will”) and another on 7 January 2014 (“the 2014 will”). The 2014 will was signed shortly before his death leaving the bulk of his estate to his much younger lover. The daughters of the deceased claimed the 2014 will was invalid as there were “suspicious” circumstances. They claimed their father either did not sign the 2014 will himself or, if he did, that he lacked the mental capacity to execute a valid will by reason of dementia. The daughters of the deceased were not successful in proving that the deceased’s signature was a forgery despite the fact that three handwriting experts testified.

Another witness called to testify was a witness to the 2014 will. Her testimony focused on the circumstances surrounding the signing of the 2014 will. She signed the will as a witness. She testified that she and her husband met the deceased in the street. As they were acquainted they naturally engaged in social conversation. She and her husband were informed that the deceased was on his way to the police station to sign a will. She and her husband were asked if they would accompany the deceased in order to sign the will as witnesses. They were assured that the process would not take long so they agreed to assist.

She and her husband signed the will and immediately left. They were the first to sign the will. At the time they signed the will the deceased had not signed the will. They left before witnessing the deceased signing the will.  Hence, the 2014 will was not signed by the deceased in their presence even though it reflects their respective signatures as witnesses.

The evidence assessed collectively established that the deceased signed the 2011 will and also that he signed the 2014 will. However, the 2014 will was signed by the deceased after the two witnesses to the will had already left and therefore was signed in their absence.

The court referred to Section 2 of the Wills Act in terms whereof no will is valid unless the signature made by the testator is made “in the presence of two or more competent witnesses present at the same time”. The court confirmed that this requirement is mandatory and, if not met, the will is not valid for want of compliance with a statutorily required formality.

The court therefore found the 2014 will to be invalid and, as there was no evidence that there was any irregularity in the execution of the 2011 will, the 2011 will was declared the will of the deceased.

This judgement of the High Court once again emphasizes the importance of complying with the Wills Act. Your will is invalid, and it is advisable for you to print the will again and to sign it in the presence of two competent witnesses or, even better, for you to make an appointment with your attorney in order to sign the will at his office.

Reference List:

  • Twine and Another v Naidoo and Another [2017] ZAGPJHC 288; [2018] 1 All SA 297 (GJ)
  • Wills Act, Act 7 of 1953

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CAN THE POLICE SEARCH A PERSON WITHOUT A WARRANT OF ARREST?

This article focuses on primarily whether the police may search a person without a warrant of arrest. On the face of it, it would appear that the search and seizure of a person and premises are in contravention with the Bill of Rights, more specifically section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

With the enactment of the Constitution, there have been a number of constraints on search and seizure powers by police officials. Section 14(a) of the Constitution specifically protects the right not to have a person or their home searched. A person’s home, it is widely accepted, constitutes the highest expectation of privacy. According to section 36 of the Constitution, rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited by a law of general application, if the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.

The Criminal Procedure Act allows the police to search any person or any container or premise of that person without a search warrant. It also allows the police to seize any article reasonably believed to have been used to commit a crime or that is reasonably believed to be evidence that could assist the state in proving that an offence was committed. This can be done only if the owner gives consent for the search or if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a search warrant would have been issued and a delay in conducting the search would have defeated the purpose of the search and seizure operation.

What this essentially means is that a police officer can search you personally or can search your car or house even when no search warrant was obtained and even when you did not give permission for such a search. However, such a type of search without a warrant can only be executed where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a search warrant will be issued to the relevant police official should he apply for it and that the delay in obtaining such warrant would defeat the object of the search.

According to the relevant case law, a police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a person committed an offence or that a person is in possession of an article used or to be used in the commission of an offence. A mere assertion by a police officer that he or she had such a suspicion without any evidence to back it up will not do. This means that where a police officer stops you in the street and decides that you are a drug dealer merely because of your appearance, he or she will not be able to merely argue that there is a reasonable suspicion that you committed an offence or are in possession of an article used in the commission of an offence and, hence, will not be entitled to search you.

In terms of the South African Police Act 68 of 1995 the National or Provincial Commissioner may where it is reasonable in the circumstances in order to exercise a power or to perform a function of the service, authorise in writing a member under his command to set up roadblocks on any public road. Any member of the South African Police Service may, without a warrant, search any vehicle at such a roadblock. However, such a search without a warrant in a roadblock may only be conducted upon the written authorisation by the National or Provincial Commissioner of the South African Police Service.

It is of paramount importance that a police official exercise his or her discretion in conducting a search without a warrant carefully and does not infringe a person’s right to privacy as entrenched in section 14 of the Constitution. It is also important to note that a search and seizure by a police official must be reasonable and justifiable in terms of the Constitution.

Reference List:

  • The Criminal Procedure Act 57 of 1977
  • The South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995
  • The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,1996
  • Geldenhuys T,The Criminal Procedure Handbook, Juta, August 2010

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CAN I BRING MY ATTORNEY WITH TO AN INTERNAL DISCIPLINARY HEARING?

According to item 4 of the Code of Good Practice (“the code”), the definition of dismissal contained in Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act (“LRA”) states that, when an employee is charged with misconduct, “[t]he employee should be allowed… the assistance of a trade union representative or fellow employee”. However, what happens in the instance when you do not belong to a trade union, or alternatively, a fellow employee is unwilling to assist you?

An employee does not automatically have the right to a legal representative during a disciplinary hearing held at their workplace. However, the employee may bring a formal application prior to the hearing for the presiding officer to consider allowing an external representative to assist the employee at the disciplinary hearing.  When exercising such discretion, the presiding officer should take certain factors into account, and the decision in respect of such an application is final, although the employee can still refer a dispute to the CCMA or Bargaining Council for procedural unfairness.

These are the factors to be considered:

  • The company policy;
  • The serious nature and complexity of the matter (whether it is in respect of a point of law or the merits of the matter);
  • The potential severity of the consequences of an adverse finding;
  • The potential adverse effects on both parties, if legal representation is allowed in comparison to when it is not allowed.

However, what happens when the employer blatantly refuses the application, or the company policy prohibits the use of an external legal representative during a disciplinary hearing?

In the case of MEC: Department of Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism: Northern Province vs Schoon Godwilly Mahumani, the Supreme Court of Appeal held that even when the employer’s disciplinary policy prohibits the use of an external representative, it may be allowed in certain circumstances. The court held that the employer’s policy must be viewed as a guideline, which may be departed from under appropriate circumstances. Therefore, ultimately leaving it to the presiding officers to decide.

In Molope v Mbha and Others, the Labour Court held that even though the dismissal of an employee who was charged with the unauthorised use of funds was substantively fair, the dismissal was procedurally unfair. The employee, prior to the disciplinary hearing, requested a postponement of the said hearing, in order to obtain an external representative as a fellow employee who had agreed to assist the accused employee decided to no longer assist shorty before the hearing.  The employer however refused the postponement.

The decision of the presiding officer on such application is final. However, should the employee wish to appeal against this decision, the employee still has the option of referring the dispute to the CCMA or Bargaining Council for procedural unfairness upon the completion of the disciplinary process.

Therefore, should employers not disclose the option to use an external representative, via their policies or the notice of disciplinary hearing, it does not preclude employees from seeking the assistance of such representative. In the light of the above, it must still be kept in mind that it is not illegal for an employer to have a policy prohibiting assistance from external representatives. However, should the employee wish to make use of external legal representation, the request must be duly considered based on the aforementioned factors, as opposed to a mere outright denial of the request.

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This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)