In the realm of South African contract agreements, a pivotal element at play is the concept of good faith. It’s not just legal terminology; it represents a fundamental value shaping the interpretation and enforcement of contracts. This article takes a comprehensive look at what good faith entails in everyday terms, delving into its historical roots, practical applications, and potential future implications.


Critical Aspects of the Role of Good Faith

Origins of Good Faith:

Imagine good faith as a cornerstone principle deeply embedded in the ideals of fairness, reasonableness, and equity. Its origins trace back to Roman law, where it served as a defence against fraud. In South Africa, it rises to the level of a constitutional right (Section 34), safeguarding the entitlement of every individual to fair, reasonable, and just contractual terms.


Functional Equivalents of Good Faith:

Our legal system embraces principles such as ubuntu to champion fairness in relationships. While good faith and ubuntu share commonalities, they cater to different aspects. Good faith is primarily concerned with promoting fairness, reasonableness, and equity in contractual relationships, while ubuntu underscores the recognition of interconnectedness and mutual well-being rooted in African culture. Both principles play a pivotal role in guiding the interpretation of contracts.


Enforcement of Good Faith:

Courts emerge as crucial players in ensuring that contracts are characterized by fairness and reasonableness. Good faith serves as a guiding principle, although it does not stand alone. The legal landscape emphasizes that good faith cannot be wielded as a tool to alter or disregard the terms of a contract. The overarching goal is to ensure contracts are enforced justly and reasonably, balancing the interests of all parties involved.


Future Developments:

Some experts believe that good faith can play a more active and dynamic role in shaping contract law. A call for further exploration suggests the potential for good faith to stand as an independent reason for refusing to enforce a contract. Scholars also advocate for a nuanced examination of how good faith interplays with other fundamental principles, such as ubuntu.


The Evolution of Good Faith:

To comprehend the evolving role of good faith, the Constitutional Court has articulated that it necessitates honest, fair, and reasonable dealings between parties. This stance highlights the dynamic nature of this principle in contract law.



To sum up, good faith stands as a cornerstone in South African contract law, ensuring that contracts are not only legally sound but also fair, reasonable, and just. While it cannot be the sole grounds for refusing to enforce an agreement, it plays a vital role in the performance, enforcement, and termination of contracts.

As South Africa continues to shape its legal landscape, the evolving role of good faith may lead to more active participation in ensuring contracts are equitable for all parties involved. The potential for further developments suggests a nuanced exploration of good faith’s independence and its intricate relationship with other foundational principles, laying the groundwork for a more equitable and just contractual environment.

For any assistance, contact an attorney at SchoemanLaw.