Reportable the supreme court of appeal

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1Haliwell v Johannesburg Municipal Council 1912 AD 659; Municipality of Bulawayo v Stewart 1916 AD 357; Cape Town Municipality v Clohessy 1921 AD 4; De Villiers v Johannesburg Municipality 1926 AD 401; Moulang v Port Elizabeth Municipality 1958(2) SA 518 (A). Collectively, “the municipality cases”.

2Regal v African Superslate (Pty) Ltd 1963(1) SA 102 (A); Minister of Forestry v Quathlamba (Pty) Ltd 1973(3) SA 69 (A); Minister van Polisie v Ewels 1975(3) SA 590 (A). See too Butters v Cape Town Municipality 1993(3) SA 521 (C); 1996(1) SA 473 (C); Van der Merwe Burger v Munisipaliteit van Warrenton 1987(1) SA 899 (NC); Rabie v Kimberley Munisipaliteit en ‘n Ander 1991(4) SA 243 (NC); Silva’s Fishing Corporation (Pty Ltd v Maweza 1957(2) SA 256 (A).

3The phrase is the translation in the law reports of the phrase “regsoortuiging van die gemeenskap” used by Rumpff CJ at 597 B of Ewel’s case (note 2). It is not a particularly happy rendering. What after all is a legal conviction? “Sense of what the law ought to be” would, I think, convey the meaning more accurately. However, as the rendering in the law reports is commonly used, I shall fall in line and continue to use it in this judgment.

4Cape Town Municipality v Bakkerud 1997(4) SA 356 (C).

5Administrateur, Transvaal v Van der Merwe 1994(4) SA 347 (A) at 364 G. It would of course be permissible, in an appropriate case where it seems clear that on any view of the scope of such legal duty to act as could conceivably be imposed in the first phase the defendant has not behaved in a blameworthy fashion according to the traditional test for culpa, to omit the first phase, to assume against the defendant that he was not free in law to refrain from any action, but to acquit him of liability because of the absence of any culpa.


Pyrenees Shire Council v Day (1998) 192 CLR 330 at 385-388; 408-412. For a more guarded and less hostile reaction in the United Kingdom, see Stovin v Wise [1996] AC 923 at 954-955. For an overview of the more recent decisions on the subject of liability in delict of public bodies in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, see the contribution by Stephen Todd entitled Liability in Tort of Public Bodies in Torts Tomorrow - A Tribute to John Fleming, (1998) edited by N J Mullany and A M Linden at 35-36


Sutherland Shire Council v Heyman (1985) 157 CLR 424; Parramatta City Council v Lutz (1988) 12 NSWLR 293; Pyrenees Shire Council v Day (1988) 192 CLR 330 (Australia); Invercargill City Council v Hamlin [1996] AC 624 (PC) (New Zealand).


Minister van Polisie v Ewels 1975(3) SA 590 (A). The English translation from the Afrikaans is taken from the headnote. See note 3.


The Actionable Omission - Another View of Ewel’s Case (1976) 93 SALJ 85. The nom de plume Amicus Curiae was that of the Hon George Colman, the distinguished former Transvaal judge. R Zimmermann, The Law of Obligations - Roman Foundations of the Civilian Tradition, 1046 n. 299.


Zimmermann and Visser, Southern Cross - Civil Law and Common Law in South Africa, 628 n. 225.


Schreiner JA in Moulang’s case (note 1) at 523 F; Amicus Curiae (note 9) at 87.

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