Find a South African Lawyer in SA's leading Legal Directory |

Areas of Law and Guides

South African administrative law is the branch of public law in that country which regulates the legal relations of public authorities, whether with private individuals and organisations or with other public authorities, or better say, in present-day South Africa, which regulates "the activities of bodies that exercise public powers or perform public functions, irrespective of whether those bodies are public authorities in a strict sense."

Administrative Law

South African administrative law is the branch of public law in that country which regulates the legal relations of public authorities, whether with private individuals and organisations or with other public authorities, or better say, in present-day South Africa, which regulates "the activities of bodies that exercise public powers or perform public functions, irrespective of whether those bodies are public authorities in a strict sense." 

According to the Constitutional Court, administrative law is "an incident of the separation of powers under which the courts regulate and control the exercise of public power by the other branches of government."

Weichers defines administrative law as a body of legal rules governing the administration, organisation, powers and functions of administrative authorities. For Baxter, it is a set of common-law principles which promote the effective use of administrative power, protect against misuse, preserve a balance of fairness and maintain the public interest. Chaskalson describes it as the interface between the bureaucratic state and its subjects.

From this it may be seen that commentators agree that administrative law is concerned with attaining administrative efficiency, and with ensuring that this power is tightly controlled, so that no abuse may occur. In Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of South Africa: In re Ex Parte President of the Republic of South Africa, it was held that administrative law forms the core of public law. It overlaps with constitutional law because both deal with organs of state and their relationship to individuals. Administrative law differs from constitutional law, however, in its emphasisis on a particular branch of government (the public administration) and on a particular activity of the state (administrative action). In President of the RSA v SARFU, the Constitutional Court held that the administration is that part of government which is primarily concerned with the implementation of legislation.

In summary, then, administrative law regulates the activities of bodies that exercise public powers or perform public functions. It empowers administrative officials so that they may implement policies or programs, and limits the exercise of power by requiring all administrative action meet the minimum requirements of lawfulness, reasonableness and fairness.

Administrative officials derive their authority or jurisdiction from a legal instrument or rule, and may only do what a law authorises them to so. This is known as the principle of legality, which requires that administrative authorities not only refrain from breaking the law, but that all their content comply with the Constitution and particularly the Bill of Rights. The sources of administrative law are, in order of importance,

  • the Constitution;
  • legislation; and
  • the common law.


Most recent Articles posted

Court order retains status quo in Tshwane

The Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) has ruled in favour of the DA in its bid to hold on to the Tshwane municipality.

Grahamstown name change bungled

The provincial and the national geographic names councils – and Art & Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa – had so badly bungled the process leading to Mthethwa’s decision to change the name of Grahamstown to Makhanda that his decision to do so should be set aside, it was argued in the Eastern Cape High Court (Grahamstown) yesterday.

Jiba loses first round in battle to get job back

Former prosecutions boss Nomgcobo Jiba has lost the first round of her court battle to be reinstated to her position pending the parliamentary process that will either confirm or overturn her removal, says a Business Day report.

Bikers complain about Cape Town by-law

Motorcyclists are angered over a City of Cape Town’s traffic by-law amendment they say will outlaw lane sharing with cars or riding between cars (lane-splitting).

R1.6bn of councils' VBS investments lost

Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu yesterday said more than R1.6bn of the R2bn invested by municipalities into VBS Mutual Bank cannot be recovered. Makwetu, reporting on the audit outcomes of municipalities for the 2017/2018 financial year, described the non-recovery of public funds invested in VBS as a classic example of the 'impact of deteriorating accountability' in municipalities.

Cape Town gets court date for IPPs hearing

The City of Cape Town has welcomed the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) setting a date to hear its petition to buy electricity directly from independent power producers (IPPs). The city wants the Energy Minister and the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) to allow it to purchase power from IPPs.

Easier now to challenge dodgy contracts

A precedent has been confirmed in the Constitutional Court’s recent ruling in Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality v Asla Construction (Pty) Ltd that may allow government entities to appeal their own decisions – where there is evidence that those past decisions were unlawful – potentially even after several years have passed, and even if their reasons for appealing are possibly questionable.

Minister overturns Watson wind farm authorisation

The controversial decision to grant environmental authorisation for the Watson family's massive wind farm project on the summit of the Groot Winterhoek mountains near Uitenhage has been overturned, at least temporarily.

Questions over tender award to ANC-linked firm

Umgeni Water broke National Treasury’s rules and awarded a R220m security tender to an ANC-linked company whose taxes were not in order at the time, says a City Press report. In December, Umgeni Water awarded the three-year tender to guard the water utility’s assets to Reshebile Aviation and Protection Services, which at the time owed SARS both payroll tax and VAT. Treasury forbids the awarding of tenders to companies which are not tax compliant.

RTMC loses ConCourt tender challenge

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has lost a Constitutional Court challenge in a case in which it argued that it was within its rights to renege on a R33m tender agreement. A Cape Times report says the RTMC had in 2009 entered into a service level agreement with Waymark Infotech (Pty) Ltd to develop and install an Enterprise Resource Planning system.

Municipality not obliged to continue security contract

Msunduzi Municipality is under no legal obligation to continue using its security company Khuselani Security and Risk Management (KSA). The Witness report says this follows a ruling by Judge Piet Bezuidenhout of the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg).

Cape Town seeks freedom from Eskom shackles

The City of Cape Town is waiting for the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) to determine a date to rule on whether independent power producers (IPPs) can supply the city with electricity. A Cape Times report says the city has taken Energy Minister Jeff Radebe and the energy regulator to the High Court to challenge the status quo that allows municipalities to purchase from IPPs only if they have ministerial approval.

Gigaba wrong to grant Guptas naturalisation

Malusi Gigaba, former Home Affairs Minister, was 'incorrect' in granting members of the Gupta family early naturalisation, MPs have decided. The National Assembly's Home Affairs Committee did not recommend sanctions against Gigaba but recommended that criminal charges be laid against Gupta lieutenant Ashu Chawla and members of the Gupta family 'relating to false information submitted in their early naturalisation applications', reports News24.

Makhanda name change issue in court

Makhanda pensioner Monameli Ndumo (70) has taken Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa to court to challenge the Grahamstown name change to Makhanda. According to a Daily Dispatch report, Ndumo – who co-chairs an organisation called Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown – said the entire process had been fatally flawed.

Finally, Tshwane's smart metre saga settled

A settlement agreement between the City of Tshwane and its controversial smart metering supplier Peu Capital Partners was made an order of the High Court yesterday, says a Moneyweb report. In terms of the order, the city may now remove the meters supplied by PEU and install new meters for the almost 13 000 Tshwane customers, mostly large power users, who have been supplied with electricity through the PEU system.

Security companies in tender spat

Four security companies have launched an urgent application at the Western Cape High Court in a bid to prevent the city of Cape Town from implementing a new security tender. A Cape Times report says the 2017 tender was for providing security services to about 3 000 facilities owned or used by the city, as well as various events held under its banner.

Maiden's Cove plan irregular

Legal advice given to the City of Cape Town reveals that the development plan for Maiden’s Cove was irregular and the City was advised not to proceed with the development. A Cape Argus report notes legal advisers JJ Gauntlett SC QC and FB Pelser said in papers: ‘We consider that the process followed to date with regards to the Maiden’s Cove development is irregular and will be set aside on review. This despite the delay.’

Community challenges council over ‘exorbitant’ fees

The access restriction fees in Tshwane were definitely not exorbitant and had been calculated in terms of the municipality’s tariff policy. A Pretoria News report says this is according to the city in its response to the application by Residents Against Crime, which asked the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) to take the metro to task regarding its ‘unreasonable and exorbitant’ tariffs on access restriction applications (to gated communities).

High Court rules for Grey College principal

The governing body of Grey College in Bloemfontein was on the receiving end of a severe hiding in the Free State High Court this week in connection with its attempt to curtail the powers of its principal, notes a Volksblad report. Acting Judge-President Cagney Musi declared the governing body had acted unfairly and unlawfully during a meeting at which it was decided that Deon Scheepers should be relieved of all ‘delegated’ powers and in future focus only on academic matters at the school.

Lobby group tackles MTN, municipality over cell masts

The Durban Anti-Cell Mast Alliance (Dacma) lobby group has launched an application in the KZN High Court (Durban) seeking an urgent review of what it says was a ‘secret deal’ between cellphone company MTN and the eThekwini Municipality which resulted in a proliferation of cell masts across the city.

Mentioned in