Draft International Arbitration Bill Published- could South Africa become the venue for international arbitrations?

On 28 April 2016, the Government Gazette published the draft International Arbitration Bill and its explanatory memorandum. The Bill is due to be introduced to Parliament and if it becomes an Act, it will replace the old Arbitration Act and will govern all international arbitrations seated in South Africa. This will include commercial and investment arbitrations. The Arbitration Act, however, will continue to govern domestic arbitrations.

The Bill incorporates the Model Law of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and provides for the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.

If the Bill becomes an Act, some of the advantages would be that parties may refer their disputes to conciliation in accordance with the UNCITRAL Conciliation Rules, arbitrators will be granted immunity (provided that they’ve acted in good faith), the Act will be binding on all public bodies and the permission of the Minister of Economic Affairs will not be required for the enforcement of certain foreign arbitral awards.

If this new legislation is enacted, South Africa may become a popular destination to host international arbitrations.

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