The application of socio-economic rights to private law

Liebenberg, Sandra (2008-01)

CITATION: Liebenberg, S. 2008. The application of socio-economic rights to private law . Journal of South African Law / Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg, 2008(3):464-480.

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The constitution is explicitly committed to redressing and transforming socio-economic exclusion and marginalisation. This is manifest, amongst other constitutional provisions, in the entrenchment of a comprehensive range of socio-economic rights read together with the provisions relating to substantive equality,1 land reform2 and environmental rights.3 Moreover, the constitution contains a number of express provisions signalling that the rights and values in the bill of rights are intended to apply to private relations and to influence the development of the common law and customary law. Sections 8(1)-(3) and 39(2) are the primary provisions governing the application of the bill of rights to private parties. In South Africa (as is the case in other societies based on a market economy) powerful private actors such as landlords, banks, medical aid schemes, insurance companies and utility companies delivering public services such as water exercise significant control over people’s access to socio-economic rights. Common-law rules and institutions structure access to socio-economic resources in diverse areas of contract law, property law, delict, family law and succession.

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