A New Approach to Statutory Interpretation

1687 WordsNov 13, 20137 Pages
Assignment 01 Introduction The enactment of both the interim and final Constitution ushered in a new approach to statutory interpretation. In this essay I argue that the statement made by the court in Daniels v Campbell 2003 (9) BLCR 969 (C) is true. The interpretative approach adopted by South African courts pre-1994 Statutory interpretation pre-1994 lacked a single theoretical starting point. There was no single methodology that was applied to interpret legislation. Consequently the process of interpreting legislation involved a mixture of theoretical approaches that were often conflicting and inconsistent. One of the theoretical approaches that were used pre-1994 was the text-based approach. The text-based approach accords the…show more content…
This inevitably means that extra-textual factors are being considered before the legislative text is considered in its literal grammatical sense. The Constitution imposes a single theoretical starting point in interpreting legislation. This was made clear by Ngcobo J in the Bato Star Fishing (Pty) Ltd v Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism 2004 (4) SA 490 (CC): The Constitution is … the starting point in interpreting any legislation. … first, the interpretation that is placed upon a statute must, where possible, be one that would advance at least an identifiable value enshrined in the Bill of Rights; and, second, the statute must be capable of such interpretation… The emerging trend in statutory construction is to have regard to the context in which the words occur, even where the words to be construed are clear and unambiguous. Post 1994 the Constitution is the supreme law of the land consequently it makes demands on the interpretation of legislative text. The Constitution needs to be applied in all courts in interpreting legislation to give effect the concept of the Constitutional state. However there are still instances where courts use a hybrid approach in interpreting legislation. For example in Shackleton Credit Management (Pty) Ltd v Scholtz the court outlined three interpretation approaches: 1. The golden rule (the plain meaning of the text must be followed unless it leads to an absurdity or a result not intended by the legislature); 2.
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