Human rights obligations and South African companies : a transformative approach

Kolabhai, Reshard Lee (2020-04)

Thesis (LLM)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In response to colonialism, apartheid and contemporary ills, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (“the Constitution”) builds its legitimacy on the fundamental restructuring of South African society in line with human rights. Human rights violations often involve companies and corporate structures in some form, such structures being central to South Africa’s political-economic history since 1652, and continuing to permeate modern South African life. The Constitution’s project of transformative constitutionalism extends to all legal and economic relations, including companies, but domestic corporate regulation does not yet exhibit any meaningful transformative change in favour of human rights. This thesis thus examines the implications of the South African Bill of Rights for companies and company law, using the lens of transformative constitutionalism. The current business and human rights law literature generally follows an atomistic conceptual approach to understanding companies, focusing on companies as individual entities capable of committing violations. Transformative constitutionalism, however, requires a critical and contextual systemic understanding of companies as part of a holistic political economic system. Such an approach implicates companies, company law, the wider economy and the State in an alternative transformative paradigm. As products of the law, companies and company law itself are fully subject to the Bill of Rights, the question rather being of how the Bill of Rights applies where they are concerned. Several constitutional provisions are implicated where companies and company law are involved, namely sections 7(2), 8, 39(2) and 239 of the Constitution. These constitutional mechanisms often overlap, and the jurisprudence on them is generally doctrinally unclear. Further, international business and human rights law also needs to be coherently integrated into the domestic system for it to be transformative. To address these concerns, this thesis proposes a transformative and systemic conceptual approach to companies, coupled with a rights-centric doctrinal approach. This gives rise to a simultaneous multicentric binding of the State, companies (and other business actors and structures), and law. This thesis outlines the possible contours of such a corporate regime, informed by international human rights law. Such reform requires not only a change in how the law and companies are conceived, but also a fundamental normative shift in favour of human rights foremost, with wide systemic interventions undertaken by the State.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In reaksie op kolonialisme, apartheid en hedendaagse euwels, bou die Grondwet van die Republiek van Suid-Afrika, 1996 (“die Grondwet”) sy legitimiteit op die fundamentele herstrukturering van die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing in ooreenstemming met menseregte. Ondernemings en korporatiewe strukture in een of ander vorm is dikwels betrokke by menseregteskendings – strukture wat al sentraal is tot Suid-Afrika se politieke-ekonomiese geskiedenis sedert 1652, en wat die moderne Suid-Afrikaanse lewe deurdring. Die Grondwet se projek van transformerende konstitusionalisme strek tot alle regs- en ekonomiese verhoudings, insluitend maatskappye, maar binnelandse korporatiewe regulering toon nog geen betekenisvolle transformatiewe verandering ten gunste van menseregte nie. Hierdie tesis ondersoek dus die implikasies van die Suid-Afrikaanse Handves van Regte vir ondernemings en ondernemingsreg deur die lens van transformerende konstitusionalisme. Die huidige literatuur met betrekking tot ondernemingsreg en menseregte volg gewoonlik ‘n atomistiese konseptuele benadering ten opsigte van die begrip van ondernemings, met die fokus op maatskappye as individuele entiteite wat oortredings kan begaan. Transformatiewe konstitusionalisme vereis egter ‘n kritiese en kontekstuele sistemiese begrip van ondernemings as deel van ‘n holistiese politieke ekonomiese stelsel. So ‘n benadering impliseer ondernemings, ondernemingsreg, die breër ekonomie en die staat in ‘n alternatiewe transformatiewe paradigma. Aangesien ondernemings en ondernemingsreg produkte van die wet is en dus self geheel en al onderhewig aan die Handves van Regte is, is die vraag eerder hoe die Handves van Regte van toepassing is waar dit betrekking het. Verskeie grondwetlike bepalings word relevant in die konteks van ondernemings en ondernemingsreg, naamlik artikels 7(2), 8, 39(2) en 239 van die Grondwet. Hierdie grondwetlike meganismes oorvleuel dikwels en die toepaslike regspraak is dikwels onduidelik. Internasionale sake- en menseregte-reg moet samehangend in die binnelandse sisteem geïntegreer word om transformatief te wees. Om hierdie probleme aan te spreek, stel hierdie tesis ‘n transformerende en sistemiese konseptuele benadering tot ondernemings met ‘n regte-sentriese leerstellige benadering voor. Dit lei tot ‘n gelyktydige multisentriese binding van die staat, maatskappye (en ander besigheidsrolspelers en -strukture) en die reg. Hierdie tesis gee ‘n uiteensetting van die moontlike kontoere van so ‘n ondernemingsregime wat internasionale menseregte-reg in ag neem. Sodanige hervorming vereis nie net ‘n verandering in die manier waarop die reg en ondernemings beskou word nie, maar ook ‘n fundamentele normatiewe verskuiwing ten gunste van menseregte, met wye sistemiese ingrepe deur die Staat.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/108152
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