The UNCITRAL model law on international commercial arbitration as basis for international and domestic arbitration in South Africa / Debra Venter
Commercial arbitration is growing in importance in the modern world. People often use arbitration to ensure adjudication by an expert in the field and although arbitration may not always be quicker, its importance continues to grow especially in international commercial disputes.1 Effective arbitration procedures will have positive consequences for the economical and political relationships between countries.2 The Arbitration Act 42 of 1965 might have sufficed in the past, but as international commercial arbitration is ever increasing and changing, this act has become out–dated. It does not effectively facilitate international commercial arbitration. The Act was primarily designed with domestic commercial arbitration in mind and therefore it is of limited assistance in the international commercial arbitration sphere. The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law3 has developed the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.4 This Model Law or variations thereof can be adopted by a country to regulate international commercial arbitration.5 Many countries choose to adopt the Model Law. The reasons vary but some are that the country’s own arbitration laws were out–dated and needed replacement. The Model Law has proved to be effective and it has become a benchmark for good arbitration legislation.6 Some countries have even adopted the Model Law for use in domestic commercial arbitration disputes. The South African Law Commission7 published a report in 1998 dealing with the possible application of the Model Law on international commercial arbitration in South Africa. It drafted a Draft Bill on International Arbitration (not as of yet promulgated) based on the Model Law.9 One of the points of discussion in the report of the Commission was whether the Model Law should also be made applicable to domestic commercial arbitration in South Africa. The conclusion was that domestic and international arbitration should be dealt with separately and that the present Act regulating domestic arbitration should be amended but not replaced by the Model Law. This implies two arbitration regimes: the International Arbitration Act (dealing only with international commercial arbitration); and the Arbitration Act (dealing only with domestic commercial arbitration) After the Commission’s report had been studied and South Africa’s legal position had been compared with Australia’s legal position, it is conlcuded that Australia is a good example to follow in regard to arbitration practices. It is, however, important to keep South Africa’s own background in mind. A good point made by Australia, is the fact that international commercial arbitration legislation and domestic commercial arbitration legislation, should be kept separate. This will bring about effectiveness and clarity for the users of the said legislation. Furthermore, as end conclusion, the Commission’s view is not favoured in regard to the fact that South Africa’s domestic arbitration legislation should not be based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. It would be a good idea to follow suit with Australia and base both South Africa’s international and domestic commercial arbitration legislation on the UNCITRAL Model Law.
- ETD@PUK 
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