Specific performance as a primary remedy in the South African Law of Contract
Kanamugire, Jean Chrysostome
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Specific performance is a primary remedy for breach of contract available for the aggrieved party. This order emphasises the performance of contractual obligations. Although the plaintiff can elect to claim specific performance from the defendant, the court has a discretion to grant or decline the order of specific performance. The discretion must be exercised judicially and does not confine on rigid rules. Courts decide each case according to its own facts and circumstances. Plaintiff has a right of election whether to claim specific performance from the defendant or damages for breach of contract. The defendant does not enjoy any choice in this matter. As a general rule, specific performance is not often awarded in the contract of services. However, recent developments have demonstrated that specific performance will usually be granted in employment contracts if there is equality of bargaining power among contracting parties and such order will not produce undue hardship to the defaulting party. Public policy generally favours the utmost freedom of contract and requires that parties should respect or honour their contractual obligations in commercial transactions. Public policy is rooted in the constitution and can sparingly be used to strike down contracts. Specific performance should not continue to be a primary remedy for breach of contract. Contracting parties should be allowed to resile from the contract and use damages as a remedy for breach of contract.
- Faculty of Law