Should the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act be amended to include electronic signatures for the sale of immovable property in South Africa?
Author: Nirissa Reddy
Affiliations: LLB (UKZN) LLM (Unisa)
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 140 Issue 4, p. 795-812
Electronic signatures have become a core feature of digital transformation. Organisations can now transact with greater ease, regardless of physical distance or national borders. The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 facilitates electronic communications and transactions using electronic documents and signatures in South Africa. Electronic contracts and signatures are legally binding and constitute valid and admissible evidence in legal proceedings, although there are a few exceptions. One of the exclusions concerns agreements for the sale of immovable property. The Alienation of Land Act 68 of 1981, which regulates the sale of land, seeks to promote legal certainty as to the authenticity and contents of these contracts to limit instances of fraud and litigation. This article examines the risk associated with fraud and the case of Borcherds v Duxbury 2021 (1) SA 410 (ECP). In this case, contrary to legislation, the court accepted an electronic signature in a contract for the sale of immovable property. I recommend that the relevant legislation be amended to validate the use of advanced electronic signatures for the sale of immovable property. A holistic approach to electronic signatures is the only way to embrace an inevitable and complete digital transformation.