What is a spoliation? A relic of Roman canon law, alive and well in SA in 2013

Legal tips and updates by Rose Attorneys, Cape Town www.roseattorneys.co.za

A spoliation is any wrongful deprivation of another’s right of possession. It can include various acts, such as when a thief steals your car, or a landlord owed arrear rentals switches off the water supply to a tenant’s premises, or a municipal employee demolishes a homeless person’s home under a bridge.

The “mandament van spolie” is an order of court which undoes a spoliation, by ordering the guilty party to restore the status quo after a spoliation, that is, to return the thing that was spoliated. The underlying principle is that people are required to follow due legal process, and not simply help themselves. A party who skips due process can find themselves liable under a mandament van spolie to undo their actions and also pay their victim’s legal costs (aside from any other civil or criminal penalties that might apply).

There is conflicting case law as to whether the…

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