Talking Point April 2017

A succinct discussion of selected topical, legal matters

Dear Friends and Colleagues

I take great pleasure in submitting the April 2017 edition of Talking Point to you.  This edition and the previous two editions are also on our website at

After half a century in Plein Park, Walkers is relocating offices to The Terraces in Bree Street at the end of May 2017.  We’ll provide more information soon.

Thomas Piketty (1971 –) is a French academic economist.  Immediately following publication of the English translation of his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century in 2014, he shot to fame.  The central thesis of the book is that economic inequality is a feature of capitalism, specifically the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth; and inequality should be reversed through state interventionism and increased taxation.

The almost 700 pages book is rather dense and technical, and one wonders how many of Piketty’s fans and critics have actually read the book.  Yet, to the former, he is the global “rock star” economist; and to the latter, he is a (data manipulating) modern day Karl Marx.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Piketty, one ought to be informed of his views.  But beware, Piketty does not do humour:

  • And so you need to have progressive taxation of income, but you also need progressive taxation of wealth and I think South Africa will gain by introducing an annual tax on net personal wealth.”

  • Capitalism and markets should be the slave of democracy and not the opposite.”

More quotes from Piketty

In this issue:

Dazed and confused

The recent “dagga case” in the High Court, Cape Town is incorrectly widely regarded as having determined that henceforth an adult may cultivate and use cannabis in the privacy of his or her own home, and Parliament must align the relevant legislation.  We provide a more sober discussion.

Tax complexity itself is a kind of tax

The following quote is attributed to Mark Cuban, a ‘colourful’ American businessman: “Go out there and get rich.  Get so obnoxiously rich that when that tax bill comes, your first thought will be to choke on how big a check you have to write.”  We discuss a case in point.

Pay until you die

For some couples, a divorce is not really final, and the one may be compelled to support the other financially for decades after the divorce.  Circumstances change.  A high earner today may have no income after retirement.  Can a retiring maintenance payer procure the timely adjustment of his or her payment obligation?  We discuss a recent Canadian judgment on this topic.

Blame it on the lawyer

What damages are recoverable in a case where (i) but for the negligence of a professional adviser his client would not have embarked on some course of action, but (ii) part or all of the loss which he suffered by doing so arose from risks which it was no part of the adviser’s duty to protect his client against?”  We discuss a recent UK judgment that starts with this question.

When a judge loses her cool

Whereas the State is generally liable for negligent and intentional wrongful acts of government officials, not so in the case of judicial officers (Judges and Magistrates).  However, judicial officers also make mistakes.  We discuss a recent UK judgment dealing with such an instance.

What is “regularly”?

Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” (from The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien).  We discuss a case on the correct meaning of a word few would offhand regard as ambiguous..

The snail in the ginger beer bottle

The famous legal case in this issue deals with the origin of product liability (the liability of a manufacturer for placing a defective product into the hands of a consumer).

As always, I would greatly appreciate your feedback on Talking Point. Please email me at


Charl Theron