UFS law experts publish unique translation
2006-06-21

Attending the launch of the publication were from the left:  Prof Boelie Wessels (senior lecturer at the UFS Faculty of Law), Prof Frederick Fourie (Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS), Prof Johan Henning (Dean: UFS Faculty of Law) and Adv Jaco de Bruin (senior lecturer at the UFS Faculty of Law). Prof Wessels translated the treatise from corrupted medieval lawyer Latin into English, Prof Henning is the leading author and initiator of the publication and Adv de Bruin assisted with the proofreading and editing. Photo: Stephen Collett

UFS law experts publish unique translation of neglected source of partnership law

The Centre for Business Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) has translated a unique long neglected Roman-Dutch source of the law of partnership law from Latin into English.  This source dates back to 1666. 

The book, called Tractatus de Societate (A Treatise on the Law of Partnership), by Felicius and Boxelius is published as Volume 40 in the research series Mededelings van die Sentrum vir Ondernemingsreg/Transactions of the Centre for Business Law.  It is the first translation of this Roman-Dutch source into English and comprises of a comprehensive discussion of the South African common law of partnerships.  

“Apart from various brief provisions dealing on a peace meal and an ad hoc basis with diverse matters such as insolvency, there is no comprehensive Partnership Act in South Africa.  The law of partnership in South Africa consists of South African common-law, which is mainly derived from Roman-Dutch law,” said Prof Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the UFS.  Prof Henning is also the leading author and initiator of this comprehensive publication.

“Countries such as America, England, Ireland and The Netherlands have drafted or are in the process of establishing new modern partnership laws in line with new international guidelines, practices and commercial usages,” said Prof Henning.

“However, in South Africa the most recent policy document released by the Department of Trade and Industry explicitly excludes partnership law from its present company law reform programme and clearly regards this as an issue for another day,” said Prof Henning.

“Unless there is a political will to allocate the necessary resources to a comprehensive partnership law revision program, it is a practical reality that South Africa will not have a modern Partnership Act in the foreseeable future,” said Prof Henning. 

According to Prof Henning South African courts have been using the Roman-Dutch partnership law sources as authority.  “The English Partnership Act of 1890 is not binding and the English text books should therefore be approached with caution,” said Prof Henning.

“A treatise on the law of partnership that has been regarded by South African courts as an important common law authority is that of  a Frenchman by the name of Pothier.  This treatise was translated into English and was regarded as an au­thority of significance in The Netherlands towards the end of the eighteenth century,” said Prof Henning. 

“Pothier’s opinions are however not valid throughout in the Roman-Dutch partnership law as it did not apply to the Dutch province of The Netherlands and it sometimes also rely on local French customs for authority,” said Prof Henning.

For this reason the Centre for Business Law at the UFS decided to focus its attention again on the significance of the comprehensive treatise of Felicius and Boxelius on the Roman-Dutch partnership law.  Felicius was an Italian lawyer and Boxelius a Dutch lawyer.

This long neglected source of partnership law was published in 1666 in Gorkum in The Netherlands.  "A significant amount of Roman-Dutch sources of authoritive writers trusted this treatise and referred to it,” said Prof Henning.

The translation of the treatise from corrupted medieval lawyer Latin into English  was done by Prof Boelie Wessels, a very well-known expert on Roman Law and senior lecturer at the UFS Faculty of Law.  Prof Wessels, who  has 15 degrees, spent almost ten years translating the treatise.  The proofreading and editing of the translation was done by Prof Henning and Adv Jaco de Bruin, a senior lecturer at the UFS Faculty of Law.

“We want the South African courts to use Volume 40 in the research series Mededelings van die Sentrum vir Ondernemingsreg/Transactions of the Centre for Business Law as the primary source of reference when cases where Roman-Dutch Law partnership law principles are involved, are ruled on,” said Prof Henning.

The first part of the publication comprises of selected perspectives on the historical significance of the work as well as a translation of selected passages. “The intention is to follow this up expeditiously with the publication of a very limited edition of a complete translation of the work,” said Prof Henning.

A total of 400 copies of the publication will be distributed to all courts, the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   (051) 401-2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
21 June 2006


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