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Draft International Arbitration Bill Heading Back to Cabinet

October 18, 2016

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

The Draft International Arbitration Bill is designed to not only assist South African businesses in resolving their international commercial disputes, but will also place South Africa as an attractive venue for parties around the world to resolve their commercial disputes.

The deputy minister of justice and constitutional development, John Jeffery, declared this while delivering the keynote address at the International Arbitration – the Dawn of a New Era in South Africa Seminar in Johannesburg.

The draft bill’s explanatory summary was published in Government Gazette 39957 towards the end of April 2016.

Cabinet had approved the draft bill on 13 April 2016.

In the cabinet statement, the international arbitration process was described as an essential tool for doing business across South Africa’s borders.

“It will improve access to justice services for companies doing business outside the country and foreign companies in South Africa”.

The draft bill aligns with the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, which has been adopted by the UN Commission on International Trade Law.

According to the explanatory summary, the proposed legislation will ensure that the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration is incorporated into the international arbitration regime in South Africa.

It will also provide anew for the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, repeal the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards Act of 1977 and amend the Protection of Businesses Act of 1978.

The deputy minister also indicated that the proposed legislation will enable South Africa to keep up with international developments in terms of arbitration.

He added that, since cabinet approval in April 2016, the justice and constitutional development department received advice that the UNCITRAL Model Law could be adapted in order to accommodate local circumstances.
Certain provisions of the Model Law have subsequently been adapted and the department will now return the draft bill to cabinet for approval of the changes.
Some of the proposed amendments include that Option I be selected because it reflects existing South African law by requiring an arbitration agreement to be in writing, a new paragraph is proposed to article 12 which sets out the current South African standard regarding removal of an arbitrator on the basis of bias and that article 18 be amended to state that each party shall be given a reasonable opportunity, instead of a full opportunity of presenting its case.

The plan is to table the draft bill in parliament before the end of 2016.

Meanwhile, the department has published Notice 1255 in Gazette 40346 designating Accounting Officers, Financial Accountants in Commerce and Certified Tax Practitioners registered with the Institute of Accounting and Commerce as commissioners of oaths.

In Notice 672 in the same Gazette, the department has published the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department’s description submitted in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

The description lists the types of records compiled by the department and available for inspection, purchasing and copying.

The list is drawn up in accordance with section 15 (2) of the act.

The section deals with the voluntary disclosure and automatic availability of certain records.

Also displayed is the information freely available on the department’s website.