Dialogue on the International Arbitration Bill

August 1st, 2017

Mapula Sedutla – Editor

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services has invited interested persons and stakeholders to submit written submissions on the International Arbitration Bill B10 of 2017. Once enacted, the International Arbitration Bill will provide for the incorporation of the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, as adopted by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law into South African law.

Delivering the keynote address at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Law on 12 July, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, asked:

  • Is arbitration really the outsourcing of justice?
  • Are we taking justice away from our courts?
  • Does arbitration undermine national courts?
  • And what role are courts to play in arbitrations?

Mr Jeffery noted that before the above questions can be answered, the benefits of arbitration should be considered. Mr Jeffrey added: ‘Arbitration is typically faster, less formal and more tailored to the particular dispute than court proceedings while, at the same time, retaining the benefits of impartial expert adjudication. Possibly the biggest benefit of arbitration is that it is a method of dispute resolution that is chosen and controlled frequently by the parties themselves.’

During his keynote speech, Mr Jeffery noted that the new International Arbitration Bill emanates from an investigation of the South African Law Reform Commission. ‘Concerns were raised that the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards Act [40 of 1977] is not in alignment with international developments, that the Arbitration Act [42 of 1965] is inadequate for purposes of international arbitration and the South African arbitration law is outdated in many respects and thus needs revision and updating in order to reflect and serve modern commercial needs,’ he added.

According to Mr Jeffery, ‘the new Bill will assist businesses in resolving their international commercial disputes and will ensure that South Africa is an attractive venue for parties around the world to resolve their commercial disputes. It will also attract foreign direct investment. With this in mind, I have no doubt that we will see South Africa as a preferred arbitral seat in the very near future.’

The issue of international arbitration is an ongoing topic within the legal profession. In the next issue, De Rebus will cover the International Arbitration Conference of the Charted Institute of Arbitrators.

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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2017 (Aug) DR 3.