In Commerce contracts forms the foundation of commercial transactions. A well-drafted contract serves as a safeguard, protecting the interests of all parties involved and minimizing the potential for disputes.

The South African legal system places a strong emphasis on the principle of freedom of contract, which allows parties to negotiate and agree upon terms that govern their relationship. This principle is upheld in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which recognizes the right to freedom of trade, occupation, and profession. Consequently, the terms of a contract are binding on the parties, and failure to adhere to them may result in legal consequences.

One of the key reasons for carefully reviewing contracts is to ensure that they accurately reflect the intentions and expectations of all parties involved. Often, contractual disputes arise due to ambiguities, inconsistencies, or misunderstandings regarding the terms and conditions. By thoroughly reviewing the contract, parties can identify and address any potential areas of concern before entering into the agreement, thereby minimizing the risk of future conflicts.

Furthermore, a comprehensive review of the contract allows parties to assess the potential risks and liabilities associated with the agreement. South African contract law imposes certain legal obligations on the parties, and failure to comply with these obligations can lead to legal consequences, including financial penalties or the termination of the contract. By carefully examining the terms and conditions, parties can identify and mitigate potential risks, ensuring that they are aware of their rights and responsibilities under the contract.

Key Points of Agreement Reviewing:

When reviewing a contract, there are several key points that parties should consider:

  • Parties to the Contract: Ensure that the identities of the contracting parties are clearly defined and accurately represented in the contract. This includes verifying that the correct legal names, addresses, and other relevant details of the parties are correctly stated. It’s also important to ensure that the parties mentioned in the contract have the legal capacity and authority to enter into the agreement.
  • Subject Matter: Carefully review the subject matter of the contract to ensure that it accurately reflects the intended purpose and scope of the agreement.
  • Terms and Conditions: Scrutinize the terms and conditions of the contract, paying particular attention to clauses related to performance obligations, payment terms, termination provisions, and dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • Representations and Warranties: Evaluate any representations or warranties made by the parties, as these may have legal implications and potential consequences in the event of a breach.
  • Legal formalities: Review whether the contract adheres to any necessary legal formalities required by applicable laws or regulations. This may include specific formatting, witnessing requirements, notarization, or registration with relevant authorities. Failure to comply with legal formalities can potentially render the contract invalid or unenforceable.
  • Unlawful terms: Scrutinize the contract to ensure that it does not contain any unlawful or unenforceable terms that violate applicable laws, regulations, or public policies. Such terms may include provisions that are illegal, discriminatory, or contrary to established legal principles. Unlawful terms can potentially invalidate the entire contract or specific clauses within it.
  • Indemnities and Limitations of Liability: Assess the indemnity clauses and limitations of liability to understand the extent of potential financial exposure in the event of a breach or dispute.
  • Governing Law and Jurisdiction: Ensure that the governing law and jurisdiction clauses are clearly defined and aligned with the parties’ preferences and legal requirements.
  • Interpretation and Definitions: Review the interpretation and definitions sections to ensure a clear understanding of the terminology used throughout the contract.
  • Signatures and Execution: Verify that the contract has been properly executed and signed by authorized representatives of all parties involved.
  • Executable Terms: The parties to the agreement should ensure that the terms of the contract are executable and are not in contravention of the law. In other words, the obligations and actions required by the contract should be legally permissible and enforceable. Contracts cannot require parties to engage in illegal activities or acts that would violate laws or regulations. Executable terms should be clear, unambiguous, and feasible for both parties to fulfill.


In conclusion, the importance of carefully reviewing contracts cannot be overstated in the legal context. By taking the time to scrutinize the terms and conditions of an agreement, parties can protect their interests, mitigate potential risks, and establish a solid foundation for a successful business relationship. Failure to do so may result in costly disputes, legal consequences, and potential financial losses. Therefore, it is imperative that all parties approach contract review with diligence and seek professional legal advice when necessary.

Published 6 May 2024