Juleiga daniels



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wil voortgaan en dit is naamlik dat sy weens konstitutionele gronde behoort te erf, soos wat 'n wettige vrou sal erf. In die saak van DAVIDS v THE MASTER 193 [sic – 1983] (1) SA 458 (C) is bepaal dat 'n eggenoot, soos bedoel in artikel 49(1) van die Boedelwet, 1965 van 1966, nie insluit 'n vrou getroud volgens Moslemreg of –gebruik nie. JUNE SINCLAIRE [sic – Sinclair] in haar boek THE LAW OF MARRIAGE IN SOUTH AFRICA, Volume 1, op 158, 176 en 177 wys daarop dat 'n huwelik wat gesluit word ingevolge die bepalings van die Huwelikswet, Wet 25 van 1961, aan wettige eggenote sekere beskerming en ondersteunende regsmaatreëls verleen. Moslemhuwelike is 'n intieme verhouding waarna die volledige reeks van beskermende huwelikswette nog nie uitgebrei is nie. Sy wys ook daarop dat vroue wat die beskerming geniet van die Egskeidingswet en ander huwelikswetgewing ook soms ernstige finansiële probleme ondervind by beëindiging van hul huwelike. Daar word deur mnr Hack, namens die eerste respondent, aangevoer dat vir applikant om te kan slaag op hierdie grond die Hof revolusionêre nuwe reg sal moet skep. Daar is geen gesag dat die Hof al ooit voorheen 'n soortgelyke bevel gemaak het nie.
Die sake waarna mnr Jethro verwys het, is nie direk van toepassing in die aangeleentheid nie. Ek meld terloops dat ek verneem dat volgens die bepalings van Moslemreg, sou die applikant geregtig gewees het op een-agtste van die oorledene se boedel …

Indien mnr Jethro se argument ontleed word, blyk dat applikant die Hof vra om te beveel dat sy ingevolge die bepalings van artikel 1(1)(c) van die Intestate Erfreg, Wet 81 van 1978 [sic 1987], kan erf wat in effek dan sal behels dat sy die hele boedel van die oorledene kan erf. Applikant voer dus aan dat dit konstitusioneel sal wees dat haar Moslemhuwelik wettig beskou word en dat sy erf nie volgens Moslemgebruik en wette nie, maar volgens die bepalings van Suid-Afrikaanse Reg.
Ek is van mening dat hierdie Hof nie 'n bevel kan maak, soos wat mnr Jethro beweer applikant sal vra nie. Nuwe wetgewing sal deur Parlement uitgereik moet word om voorsiening te maak vir die wettigheid van huwelike wat nie gesluit word volgens die streng vereistes wat tans gestel word deur Suid-Afrikaanse huwelikswetgewing nie. Ek haal ook aan 'n opmerking van KENTRIDGE, WnR in DU PLESSIS & OTHERS v DE KLERK & ANOTHER 1996 (3) SA 850 (Konstitusionele Hof) bladsy 881C waar hy sê:

“The radical amelioration of the common law has hitherto been

a function of Parliament; there is no reason to believe that Parliament will not continue to exercise that function.”

Hierdie opmerking verskyn in die saak waarna mnr Jethro my verwys het, naamlik MTEMBO [sic Mthembu] v LETSALA & ANOTHER 1988 [sic 1998] (2) SA 675 (TPD) op 687A.
Applikant het haar aansoek aan die Hof gerig by wyse van mosieprosedure. Soos te wagte moes gewees het, het daar 'n groot feitedispuut tussen die partye ontstaan. Ingevolge die bepalings van artikel [sic] 6(5)(g) van die Hooggeregshofreëls het die Hof 'n diskresie om die aansoek te weier of te verwys vir die lei van mondelinge getuienis of 'n ander bevel te maak. Mnr Hack vra dat die aansoek van applikant van die hand gewys word met koste en mnr Jethro, wat aanvanklik 'n finale bevel wou hê, vra tans dat die aangeleentheid uitgestel moet word sodat hy in die interim kan voldoen aan sekere prosedurele vereistes, sy Kennisgewing van Mosie kan wysig en beëdigde verklarings kan aanvul om voorsiening te maak vir applikant se beweerde beoogde alternatiewe eisoorsaak
Die vraag wat die Hof moet beoordeel is of die applikant hoegenaamd prima facie 'n saak uitgemaak het wat tans voor die Hof geliasseer is sodat die Hof aan haar die vergunning kan gee dat die saak wel verder uitgestel word sodat aan prosedurele vereistes voldoen kan word en beëdigde verklarings aangevul kan word. Applikant het geen prima facie saak uitgemaak dat sy geregtig is op die aangevraagde regshulp gebaseer op 'n eisoorsaak van 'n ooreenkoms dat sy die eienaar was van die onroerende eiendom nie.
Soos die aansoek tans voor die Hof staan het sy ook nie 'n prima facie saak uitgemaak dat sy geregtig is op die regshulp wat sy vra dat sy geregtig is om intestaat van Mogamat te erf nie. Soos gemeld, is daar in elk geval 'n feitedispuut op wesentlike aspekte van applikant se saak wat sy moes voorsien het en het sy ook nie sekere verpligte prosedurele stappe geneem om haar saak behoorlik voor die Hof te plaas nie. Die Hof het 'n diskresie met betrekking tot die verdere verloop van die saak. Dit is my mening dat dit onbillik sal wees teenoor die respondent en teenoor die regbank dat die saak verder uitgestel word om applikant 'n geleentheid te bied om 'n saak behoorlik voor die Hof te plaas, soos wat sy aanvanklik moes gedoen het. As die applikant, na behoorlike oorweging en regsadvies, van mening is dat sy wil voortgaan met 'n eis gebaseer op haar sogenaamde konstitusionele punt of moontlik 'n ander eisoorsaak, soos universele vennootskap waarna die Meester verwys het, dan staan dit haar steeds vry, maar op hierdie stadium WORD DIE AANSOEK VAN DIE HAND GEWYS MET KOSTE.’ (Emphasis – in bold - added.)
To my mind, a analysis of the affidavits filed and of the judgment delivered in the 1998 application makes it abundantly clear that the applicant’s cause of action in the present proceedings, based on the meaning of the word ‘spouse’ in the Intestate Succession Act, was neither properly raised as a cause of action in the 1998 application, nor finally adjudicated upon between the parties at that stage. I will assume, in favour of the first and second respondents, that the fact that this issue was not explicitly raised on the affidavits filed in the 1998 application is not necessarily decisive of the question of res judicata or issue estoppel. Thus, in Horowitz v Brock & Others 1988 (2) SA 160 (A) at 180J-181A, the Appellate Division (as it then was) held that -

while a Court in motion proceedings may decide a dispute on an issue which has not been raised on the affidavits or in the relief sought provided it has been fully canvassed “it must be fully canvassed by both sides in the sense the Court is expected to pronounce upon it as an issue”.’


(See too, in this regard, Rabie op cit para 442; South Peninsula Municipality v Evans & Others 2001 (1) SA 271 (C) at 280I-283H; and cf. South British Insurance Co Ltd v Unicorn Shipping Lines (Pty) Ltd 1976 (1) SA 708 (A) at 714F-G.)
By no stretch of the imagination, however, can it be said that the interpretative and/or the constitutional issue in respect of the Intestate Succession Act, raised by the applicant in these proceedings, was fully canvassed by both sides in the 1998 application, nor that the Court in that application finally pronounced upon such issue. At the most, Steyn AJ expressed certain views in regard to a potential alternative cause of action which the applicant wished to raise, and in order to provide for which the applicant’s counsel applied for a postponement of the hearing. This application for a postponement was refused by Steyn AJ and it is clear from her judgment that the views expressed by her on the applicant’s ‘beweerde beoogde alternatiewe eisoorsaak’ were preliminary only, and did not form part of the basis upon which she dismissed the 1998 application. I disagree with the argument advanced by counsel for the first and second respondents in the proceedings before me to the effect that the part of the judgment of Steyn AJ dealing with the applicant’s so-called ‘konstitutionele punt’ was a final judgment on the merits of that cause of action. This being so, one of the requirements for a successful defence of res judicata, namely that the previous judgment was based on the same cause of action as that presently relied upon (or, to put it differently, that ‘the cause of action has been finally litigated between the parties’ – see Custom Credit Corporation (Pty) Ltd v Shembe 1972 (3) SA 462 (A) at 472A-B), has not been satisfied.
This conclusion renders it unnecessary for me to consider whether the other two requirements for the defence of res judicata (namely, that the previous judgment was given in proceedings between the same parties, and with respect to the same relief) have been met. Suffice it to say that, despite the strenuous arguments to the contrary advanced by counsel for the first and second respondents, I am inclined to the view that this question should be answered in the negative. I do not, however, express any definite conclusion one way or the other in this regard.
This is also not a case in which, in order to ensure overall fairness and equity, a relaxation of any of the requirements for the defence of res judicata would be appropriate. As indicated, the interpretative and/or the constitutional issue in respect of the Intestate Succession Act was neither properly canvassed, nor finally adjudicated upon, in the 1998 application. There can thus be no question of the application of the doctrine of issue estoppel, as it is understood by the South African courts, in the present case. Indeed, were I to allow the first and second respondents to shelter behind the defence of res judicata or of issue estoppel in the present proceedings, I would, in effect, be blocking the determination of an important issue which has not previously been determined in a court of law, and I may well thereby be doing an injustice to both parties, not only to the applicant. In my view, therefore, the reliance of the first and second respondents on res judicata and issue estoppel must fail.
Interpretation of the word spouseas utilised in the relevant Act

Section 1 of the Intestate Succession Act provides that:

(1) If after the commencement of this Act a person (hereinafter referred ` to as the “deceased”) dies intestate, either wholly or in part, and –

  1. is survived by a spouse, but not by a descendant, such spouse shall inherit the intestate estate;

  2. is survived by a descendant, but not by a spouse, such descendant shall inherit the intestate estate;

  3. is survived by a spouse as well as a descendant –

  1. such spouse shall inherit a child’s share of the intestate estate or so much of the intestate estate as does not exceed in value the amount fixed from time to time by the Minister of Justice by notice in the Gazette [fixed at present at R125 000.00 – see GN 483 in Government Gazette 11188 of 18 March 1988], whichever is the greater; and

  2. such descendant shall inherit the residue (if any) of the intestate estate;

  1. …’.


Section 2 of the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act, in turn, provides the following:

(1) If a marriage is dissolved by death after the commencement of this Act the survivor shall have a claim against the estate of the deceased spouse for the provision of his reasonable maintenance needs until his death or remarriage insofar as he is not able to provide therefor from his own means and earnings.


In terms of Section 1 of the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act, the word ‘survivor’ is defined as meaning ‘the surviving spouse in a marriage dissolved by death’.
As indicated above, however, there is no definition of the word ‘spouse’ in either of the two Acts.
Mr Chaskalson and Ms Williams, who represented the applicant in the proceedings before this Court, contended that the ‘ordinary’ meaning of the word ‘spouse’ – namely, ‘married person; a wife, a husband’ (see The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Clarendon Press, 1993)) – is clearly capable of including a person in the position of the applicant (ie, a person who was the wife or husband of the deceased in a de facto monogamous marriage by Muslim rites). Thus, on the ordinary literal interpretation of the two Act, the applicant is entitled to those rights which the Acts vest in surviving ‘spouses’.
As was pointed out by counsel for both sides, marriages by Muslim rites have thus far not been recognised by South African courts as valid (‘legal’) marriages, firstly, because such marriages are potentially polygynous and hence contrary to public policy (whether or not the actual union is in fact monogamous) and secondly, because such marriages are not solemnised by authorised marriage officers in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Act 25 of 1961 (see, for example, Bronn v Fritz Bronn’s Executors & Others (1860) 3 Searle 313; Seedat’s Executors v The Master (Natal) 1917 AD 302; Davids v The Master 1983 (1) SA 458 (C); Ismail v Ismail 1983 (1) SA 1006 (A), and S v Johardien 1990 (1) SA 1026 (C)). Applicant’s counsel submitted, however, that the ‘cultural chauvinism’ of the line of cases refusing to recognise marriages by Muslim rites as valid marriages, or parties married by Muslim rites as ‘spouses’, for the purposes of common law and statutory rights is incompatible with the boni mores of contemporary South Africa. As evidence of the changing approach of South African courts to marriages by Muslim rites, applicant’s counsel relied, inter alia, on the judgment of Farlam J (as he then was) in Ryland v Edros 1997 (2) SA 690 (C) and the judgment of Mahomed CJ in Amod v Multilateral Motor Vehicle Accidents Fund (Commission for Gender Equality intervening) 1999 (4) SA 1319 (SCA).
Ryland v Edros concerned an attempt by the defendant, a woman previously married by Muslim rites in a de facto monogamous union which had been terminated by her husband in accordance with Islamic law, to enforce (by way of a claim in reconvention) certain incidents of ‘the contractual agreement’ constituted by the marriage by Muslim rites between the parties. It is important to note that, as was emphasised by counsel for the defendant in that case, the Court was not asked to recognise the marriage by Muslim rites as a valid marriage, ‘but merely to enforce certain terms of a contract made between the parties which are in a sense collateral thereto’ (at 709F). Farlam J formulated the relevant question for determination by the court as follows (at 701I-702A):

Is the Court precluded from enforcing the terms of the “contractual agreement” between the parties because of the decision of the Appellate Division in Ismail v Ismail 1983 (1) SA 1006 (A), in which it was held that claims for maintenance and deferred dowry brought by a woman against a man to whom she had been married by Muslim rites were not enforceable because they were intrinsic to a conjugal union between the parties which, being potentially polygamous (although in fact monogamous) was void on the grounds of public policy?


Applying section 35(3) of the interim Constitution (Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act, 200 of 1993), the learned judge considered whether the spirit, purport and objects of Chapter 3 of the interim Constitution and the values underlying such Chapter were in conflict with the views as to public policy expressed and applied in the Ismail case, holding that, if this question were to be answered in the affirmative, then the values underlying Chapter 3 of the interim Constitution should prevail. Relying upon the values of equality, tolerance of diversity and the recognition of the plural nature of South African society as being among the values underlying the interim Constitution, Farlam J ultimately came to the conclusion there was nothing offensive to public policy or good morals in the contract which the defendant was seeking to enforce in those proceedings – ‘a contract concluded by parties which arises from a marriage relationship entered into by them in accordance with the rites of their religion and which as a fact is monogamous’ (at 707E-F read together with 710D-711C). The Court in the Ismail case had taken into account the views (or presumed views) of only one group in the heterogeneous South African society and, in the light of the interim Constitution:

‘… It is quite inimical to all the values of the new South Africa for one group to impose its values on another and … the Courts should only brand a contract as offensive to public policy if it is offensive to those values which are shared by the community at large, by all right-thinking people in the community and not only by one section of it’ (at 707G).


Farlam J emphasised that his views were confined to contractual terms agreed to in the context of a de facto monogamous Muslim marriage and would not necessarily apply to contractual terms flowing from a polygamous Muslim marriage (at 709D).
While the judgment of Farlam J is enlightened, progressive and constitutionally sensitive, and has correctly been applauded as such (see, in this regard, Van Heerden et al Boberg’s Law of Persons and the Family (2 ed, 1999) 165 note 13 and authorities there cited), it cannot be construed as authority for the proposition that a marriage by Muslim rites (albeit a de facto monogamous marriage) is a ‘valid marriage’ for purposes of the South African law, nor that the parties to such a marriage are to be recognised as ‘spouses’ in the interpretation of South African legislation.
Exactly the same can be said of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal in the Amod case (supra). In this case, a dependant’s action was brought against the insurer of a driver who had negligently killed the husband of a woman (the appellant) married according to Muslim rites in a de facto monogamous marriage, which marriage had not been registered as a civil marriage in terms of the Marriage Act 25 of 1961. Counsel for the respondent in that case contended that the appellant’s claim should fail because the marriage between her and the deceased did not enjoy the status of a ‘marriagein the civil law; that any legal duty which the deceased had to support the appellant was therefore a contractual consequence of the union between them and not an ex lege consequence of the marriage per se; and that the dependant’s action for loss of support should not be extended to cover claims for loss of support undertaken contractually, but not flowing from the common-law consequences of a valid marriage (at para [16]).
As in Ryland v Edros (supra), Mahomed CJ did not consider it necessary to grapple with the question whether or not the marriage between the appellant and the deceased was a ‘valid marriage’ in terms of the South African law. According to the learned Chief Justice:

[20] The crucial question which therefore needs to be applied is whether or not the legal right which appellant had to support from the deceased during the subsistance of the marriage is a right which, in the circumstances disclosed by the present case, deserves recognition and protection by the law for the purposes of the dependant’s action. In my view, it does, if regard is had to the fact that at the hearing before us it was common cause that the Islamic marriage between the appellant and the deceased was a




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