In the realm of contract law in South Africa, parties are bound by their promises and undertakings, and the failure to fulfil these obligations can lead to legal disputes and a search for appropriate remedies. One such remedy, specific performance, is a crucial legal tool that ensures contracts are enforced with precision. This article explores specific performance as a remedy in South African law, shedding light on its significance, requirements, and limitations.

Understanding Specific Performance

Specific performance is a legal remedy that obliges a party to a contract to perform their obligations as stipulated in the agreement. In essence, it requires a party to do exactly what they promised in the contract, as opposed to providing monetary compensation as an alternative. It is considered an equitable remedy and is typically sought in cases where damages are insufficient to provide an adequate remedy for a breach of contract.

Requirements for Specific Performance

In South African law, the courts will grant specific performance as a remedy under specific circumstances. The primary requirements for seeking specific performance include:

– Valid and Enforceable Contract: The first and foremost condition for specific performance is that the contract in question must be valid, enforceable, and clear in its terms. The courts will not compel a party to perform under a contract that is illegal, vague, or uncertain.

– Adequacy of Damages: Specific performance is typically considered when monetary damages are inadequate to compensate the non-breaching party. This may be the case in unique situations where the subject matter of the contract is unique or rare.

– Feasibility: Specific performance can only be granted if it is practically feasible for the court to enforce. The court should be able to monitor and ensure compliance with the order.

– No Unjust Hardship: Courts will also consider whether specific performance would cause undue hardship or prejudice to the party against whom the order is sought.

– Good Faith: The party seeking specific performance must be acting in good faith, and their own performance must be in compliance with the contract.

Limitations of Specific Performance

While specific performance is a powerful remedy, it is not without limitations. There are instances where this remedy may not be available or appropriate:

– Impossibility: If the contract cannot be performed due to factors beyond the control of the breaching party, such as destruction of the subject matter of the contract, specific performance may not be granted.

– Personal Services Contracts: In contracts involving personal services, such as employment contracts, specific performance is usually not an option because it is impractical to compel an individual to perform specific services against their will.

– Discretion of the Court: The court has the discretion to grant or deny specific performance based on the circumstances of each case. Even if the requirements are met, the court may choose not to order specific performance if it deems it inappropriate or unjust.


Specific performance is a vital remedy in South African contract law that ensures the enforcement of contractual obligations with precision. While it is not always granted and is subject to certain limitations, it serves as a powerful tool to protect the rights of parties involved in valid and enforceable contracts. When monetary damages are inadequate or impractical, specific performance can be a just and effective way to ensure that contractual promises are fulfilled. Parties entering into contracts in South Africa should be aware of this remedy and its potential implications when drafting, entering, and seeking to enforce contractual agreements.


This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Please feel free to contact Meyer and Partners Attorneys Incorporated should you require further information or specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Meyer and Partners Attorneys have offices in Centurion and can assist with all of your Family Law, Civil Law, Contractual and Labour related matters.

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