The interpretation of construction contract is no different than the interpretation general contract, but South African courts have realized that construction contracts have very peculiar characteristics (Concrete Construction (Pty) Ltd v Keidan & Co (Pty) Ltd 1955 (4) SA 315 (A) at 318D). Lawyers in general tend to look at the words in the contract to determine the meaning of the parties as reflected by these words. The biggest reason for this is the fact that the intension of the parties cannot be expressed by word alone.
This makes is sometimes easier to interpret a oral contract than a written contract:
The reason, no doubt, is the witnesses giving evidence about the terms of an oral contract consciously or unconsciously inject into their evidence something more than a straight recollection of the words used, so that what the tell the court tends to be their understanding of the words of the contract rather than the plain unvarnished words themselves. (The law of contract in SA, Christi, p176)
One rule that applies only to written contracts is the parol evidence rule. This rule implies:
Where the parties in a contract has decided the contract must be in writing, their decision will be respected, and the resulting document or documents will be accepted as the sole evidence of the terms of the contract. (The law of contract in SA, Christie, p176)
This makes it even more difficult to interpret a written construction contract. Especially in the construction contracts the contents might not express the different parties intent. This gives rise to a lot of disputes because of different interpretation of the words used in the contract. With this in mind it will thus be inappropriate to interpret the construction contract in a strictly linguistic approach. This will give a skilled lawyer the chance to win a dispute with an interpretation that suites his client. The courts will actually prevent the rule being used as an engine of fraud by a party who...