Van Wyk Van Heerden Attorneys

There is a common misconception that MOUs are always non-binding. MOUs can in fact be binding, non-binding or partly binding and partly non-binding, it all depends on the intention of the parties and the exact wording of the MOU. But uncertainty is rarely a good thing in the context of legal documentation and a poorly drafted MOU containing binding provisions, has the potential to haunt the signatories in Court if the envisaged substantive agreements are never signed. It might also make it difficult for you to raise and negotiate new points which were not included in the MOU.

It will be a question of the law of contract as to whether an MOU is binding or not. Conversely, if the essential terms are not all present, an MOU will be held to be void for vagueness.

The legal binding nature of an MOU was considered in the matter of Southernport Developments (Pty) Ltd v Transnet Limited [2004] JOL 13030 (SCA),  where the Court of First Instance found that there was no agreement between the parties, and the mere fact that there was an obligation to negotiate in good faith did not take the matter any further, replying upon the  decision in Premier, Free State and Others v Firechem Free State (Pty) Ltd which held that:

“An agreement that parties would negotiate to conclude another agreement is not enforceable, because the absolute discretion vested in the parties to agree or disagree.”

Such reasoning can prima facie not be faulted by virtue of the fact that the parties should be allowed to negotiate the terms and provisions of an agreement, and in particular the essential terms of the agreement. Should the parties during the course of their negotiations not be in a position to reach finality on the essential terms of an agreement, then an agreement should not be held to have been concluded. However, where parties have already put their “flag to the mast” and expressed their intention to conclude an agreement in regard to a certain matter, can it be expected that one party can hold the remaining party to such an expressed intention?

The Supreme Court held that the present case had to be distinguished from the Firechem case by virtue of the fact that the parties had created a specific mechanism to ensure that an agreement was concluded. This mechanism was the dispute resolution mechanism of arbitration, and provided that in the event of the parties not being in a position to agree on any of the terms and conditions, such dispute would be referred to an arbitrator.

The latter case sets out the appropriate protective measures to be used by any third party that is a party to an “agreement to agree”. It is imperative that such a letter of intent/memorandum of understanding contains a provision, which provides that in the event of the parties not being in a position to reach agreement on any of the terms of the proposed agreement, that such a dispute be referred to arbitration.

It is important to note that an MOU is never a prerequisite and can often serve to delay the drafting and negotiation of the substantive agreements. Practically speaking, an MOU cannot always be avoided, for example, on particularly complex deals or where a negotiating party treats an MOU as a deal breaker and insists that one be drafted. A well-drafted MOU will be partly binding and partly non-binding and will expressly state at the outset which clauses are binding and which clauses are non-binding.

A well-drafted MOU which clearly sets out which clauses are binding, and which are non-binding can set the tone for the negotiation of the substantive agreements to be drafted at a later stage and makes it difficult (but not impossible) for your counterparty to raise fresh issues. Where an MOU is unavoidable then it should be taken seriously. Almost inevitably it will be a document which creates rights and obligations and you need to be sure that the MOU properly reflects your understanding of the arrangements.

The prudent approach is to consult your attorney before committing to an MOU.

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 for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference list:

  • The Law of Contract in South Africa (2006) Fifth Edition: RH Christie [LexisNexis Butterwoths]
  • Southernport Developments (Pty) Ltd v Transnet Limited [2004] JOL 13030 (SCA)

Alicia obtained her LLB degree cum laude from the North-West University, Potchefstroom, in 2020. She commenced her articles during 2020 at Van Velden-Duffey Inc, situated in Rustenburg, where she acted as a candidate attorney in the civil litigation department.

Alicia was admitted as an Attorney of the High Court during early 2023, and currently practices as such in the litigation department of Van Wyk Van Heerden.

Maryna obtained her LLB Degree at the North West University, Potchefstroom. Originally from Clanwilliam, she went to school in Paarl at Paarl Gymnasium and returned to embark on her professional career at our firm. She joined our team in 2021 as an article clerk and was admitted as an Attorney during 2023. Maryna is currently appointed in our Estates Department in the Wellington Office.

Milton is a well organised Attorney passionate about offering multidisciplinary legal service, focusing on the best interest of his clients. He aims to provide impetus to the vision of creating new momentum in transforming the legal system. He values cost effective solutions on various matters of law, persist on a flexible approach and strive to allocate the necessary resources to satisfy his clients' needs.


Milton obtained his LLB degree in 2020 from the University of the North West. He was admitted as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa on 3 March 2023. He specializes in Civil and Commercial Litigation, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mediation, Contracts, Sports Law, Construction Disputes and Insolvency.

Anika obtained her LLB in 2020 from the University of Stellenbosch. She completed her articles at Van Wyk Van Heerden in 2022 and was admitted as an Attorney of the High Court at the beginning of 2023.

She currently practices in the Conveyancing Department where she assists estate agencies and developers, as well as marketing of the firm.

Gawie obtained his BComm and LLB Degrees at the University of Stellenbosch during 2009 and 2011 respectively. He completed his Master of Laws during 2017 in the Law of Trusts and completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning during 2019.

He joined the team at Becker Bergh & More Inc. for his articles in Upington during 2013 and worked at the firm for 9 years attending to litigation, conveyancing and commercial matters. He was admitted as Attorney and Notary Public during 2015 and as a Conveyancer during 2016.

Gawie was appointed in the Conveyancing and Commercial Departments of Van Wyk Van Heerden during 2022 in the Wellington Office, providing clients with expert advice on the structuring of transactions, the registration of Trusts as well as general Conveyancing.

Liesl graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with an LLB degree in 2005.  During University she developed a special interest in and passion for Family Law.  Due to the fact that Liesl specialised during her articles, she completed the Practical Legal Training Course presented by UNISA, in conjunction with her articles, which she commenced with Miller du Toit Cloete Inc in 2006.  She was admitted as an attorney of the Western Cape High Court, with Right of Appearance in 2007.

Liesl co-presented a paper titled “African Charter on the Rights of Children” at the London Metropolitan University Summer School in 2011 and received her Certificate of Completion in this regard.

Liesl commenced her articles at Miller du Toit Cloete Inc, under the guidance of Zenobia du Toit, in 2006 and went on to practise as a Senior Associate there for nearly 14 years. After moving to Paarl, she practised as a director of Family Law at Clark Cupido Attorneys.

Liesl joined Van Wyk Van Heerden Attorneys in April 2022, as head of their Family Law department.  She has practised exclusively in Family law and ancillary matters for 16 years.

Roeline specialises in Estate Administration. Roeline obtained her B.Com Law, LLB and LLM (Estate Law) degrees at North-West University in 2006, 2008 and 2010, respectively.
After she completed her articles in 2010, she joined a financial institution as an estate administrator.

She joined the team in 2022 and attends to all Estate matters.

Aleisha grew up in Durban and relocated to the Western Cape to attend the University of Stellenbosch where she completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Dynamics from 2011-2013. Thereafter she obtained her LLB degree through the University of the Free State with distinction from 2014-2017. She joined Van Wyk Van Heerden in 2018 as candidate attorney and gained experience in various fields of the law, with a special interest in Property Law and the Administration of Deceased Estates. After qualifying as an Attorney and Conveyancer during March 2020 Aleisha joined the team assisting in the Conveyancing and Estates Departments of the firm.

Gaynor obtained her LLB degree in 2012 from the University of Stellenbosch. She then completed her articles at a law firm in the North West Province where she gained experience in General Litigation, Family Law and Debt Collection. In 2016 she moved back to the Western Cape and finally joined the firm in November 2018 where she currently heads up the Debt Recovery Department.

Antionette obtained her LLB degree, with distinction, in 2015 at the North-West University of Potchefstroom.

She completed her articles at Van Wyk van Heerden Attorneys in 2017, and currently practices as an attorney in the litigation department. She completed her conveyancing examination in 2018 and will be admitted as a conveyancer in 2019. Antionette handles a wide range of litigation matters, including company, property, estate, family and insolvency law.

Leonette completed her studies at the University of Pretoria and obtained her LLB degree in 2009. She practised in Rustenburg for 8 years and specialised in debt Recovery, debt review and related matters.

Leonette joined the firm in 2017 and manages all correspondent work.

Carla grew up in the Free State and decided to relocate to the Cape Winelands to study law at Stellenbosch University. She obtained her LLB degree in 2002 and furthered her studies at the University of Cape Town’s School for Legal Practice where she received the Dean’s award for the best student in Business Management and Administration.

She joined the litigation department at Van der Spuy & Partners as a candidate attorney where-after she decided to pursue a career in property and commercial law, specializing in sectional title schemes, security estates and developments, servitudes, subdivisions and consolidations as well as commercial contracting.

Carla heads up the Conveyancing Department of the firm and mainly assists estate agencies and developers and is actively involved in the marketing of the company.

Charl obtained his law degree at the North West University in 2008. And finalised his articles at Van Velden & Duffey Attorneys where after he practised at the same firm and became a director in 2014.

Charl was recruited by Van Wyk Van Heerden in 2017 to strengthen and assist our growing litigation department. He handles a wide range of litigation matters including company, family, insolvency, banking and delictual law.

"Quick, practical and commercial resolution is first priority"

Willem van Heerden is a Director at Van Wyk Van Heerden in the dispute resolution, litigation and mediation department. He specialises in contractual disputes, company law, shareholder issues, evictions, family law, banking law and insolvency law. He provides sound strategic advice and direction on all commercial and company issues.

He is an accredited commercial mediator as well as a business rescue practitioner.

He has encouraged the appropriate use of mediation in the resolution of all disputes.

He has acted for various international and cross border trade, transport, agricultural and construction companies. Willem has acted for major banks, insurance houses, leading retailers, property groups as well as high network of entrepreneurs and individuals. He serves as a trustee on a number of trusts.

Willem has written various articles and is a co-author of a published legal book on farm evictions.

Qualifications

  • BCom (Northwest University)
  • LLB (Northwest University)
  • Postgraduate Diploma (VRIJE University Amstelveen )
  • Admitted as an Attorney of the High Court of South Africa
  • Accredited Business Rescue Practitioner (University of South Africa)
  • Accredited Commercial Mediator

Nazlee Abrahams grew up in Paarl and obtained the degrees B.Sc. and LLB from the University of Stellenbosch in 1992 and 1997 respectively.

She commenced with her articles at Van Wyk Fouchee in 1998 and was admitted as an Attorney with right of appearance in the High Court in 2000 after which she consequently became a Director at the firm.

In October of 2002 she was admitted as Conveyancer and also Notary Public in 2006. She currently manages Bonds registrations in the Conveyancing Department and further specialises in family & marriage law, drafting of wills, administration of estates and all notarial work.

Nazlee makes a valuable contribution in pro-bono work when the opportunity arises and invests a considerable amount of time in community service. She also serves as the current Chairperson of the governing body of William Lloyd Primary.

Anville specialises in Property Law, General Commercial Law, Estate and Tax Planning, Administration of Deceased Estates and Trust Law. Through the years, he contributed to the community life in Paarl. He was a founding member of the Drakenstein Rotary Club in Paarl, founding member of the Paarl Attorneys Association, served as Captain, President and Chairman of the board of the Paarl Golf Club and has played a major role in establishing the Boschenmeer Golf and Country Estate.

Anville obtained his BA LLB degree at the University of Stellenbosch in 1974. He served his articles with Silberbauers Attorneys in Cape Town and joined Solomon Miller, Hymie Maisel and Willem Gaum in Paarl in May 1977.

He is an experienced and seasoned attorney who commenced his career in litigation and migrated into Commercial, Trust and Tax work. He obtained his post graduate diploma in Tax Law at the University of Cape Town, with distinction, in 1993.

Anville celebrated his 40th year in practice in 2017.