Reimagining a new world of South African Insolvency Law: Advantage to creditors and section 39(2) of the constitution

Author: Alastair Smith

ISSN: 2521-2575
Affiliations: BA LLB (Rhodes), PhD (Edin)
Source: Journal of Corporate and Commercial Law & Practice, Volume 9 Issue 1, 2023, p. 43 – 91


A recent judgment in an application for a final order of compulsory sequestration provided startling justification for granting the order even if the debtor’s estate has no assets that would provide a pecuniary benefit and prospect of a dividend for creditors by relying in part on s 39(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and extensive quotations from two Constitutional Court decisions on other topics. The connections between the scope, purport and objects mentioned in s 39(2) and the subject matter of the case were not stated by the court but left to the reader to imagine and construct. Possible lines of justification are ventured in this article. The judgment’s vision of radically reimagining the South African law of insolvency is based on misapplying s 12(1)(c) of the Insolvency Act 24 of 1936. In possible moves towards reforming South African insolvency law by abandoning the requirement of advantage to creditors in a new statute, it would be essential for the legislature to canvass detailed, well-informed, carefully considered research and guidance by experts on South African social, economic and financial policy in the current circumstances.