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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Werksmans Attorneys

19 February 2016

The South African firm has been instructed in a new arbitration with Barclays

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Pending cases as counsel: 12
Value of pending counsel work: US$50 million

Werksmans’ international arbitration practice first grew shoots in the 1970s under the leadership of Cyril Jaffe. Des Williams QC worked closely with Jaffe and has continued to invest resources in developing the arbitration practice. A highly respected figure in the arbitration bar, Williams is a member of the ICC Court and a director of the Arbitration Foundation of Southern Africa.

After Williams became chairman of the firm in 2005, David Hertz took over as head of litigation and dispute resolution and he’s now succeeded Williams as the firm’s chairman. Other partners include mining arbitration specialist Chris Stevens and Roger Wakefield.


The Johannesburg-based firm merged with Cape Town outfit Jan S de Villiers in 2009, boosting the dispute resolution team from 60 to 75 lawyers.

It is now in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Tyger Valley and Stellenbosch. The firm is also a co-founding member of the Lex Africa legal network, which covers 54 countries.

Who uses it?

The firm has played a lead role in many of the country’s highest-profile arbitrations.

It has represented the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Canada’s Aberdeen International, banking software vendor Temenos and French oil and gas company Heurtey Petrochem.

Williams acts for South African Breweries in arbitration proceedings against Shoprite Holdings over the sale of the OK Bazaars Group in 1997. SA Breweries has been successful in two arbitrations and other court proceedings thus far, with a third dispute still ongoing.

He is also counsel to the Glencore subsidiary Katanga Mining and various associated companies in several disputes related to a mining project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In one matter, the company is pitched against China’s Zhongji.

Track record

Williams successfully represented South African wireless provider Telkom in a long-running breach of contract dispute with US-based Telcordia. The case began with an ICC claim in 2001, before spilling out to the local courts. The matter was finally settled in 2010, with Telkom paying about half of what the other side originally claimed.

An arbitration between the firm’s client, Canadian company Aberdeen International, against South Africa’s Simmer & Jack Mines, was also settled in 2012 shortly before hearings were due to take place.

Recent events

In 2015, the firm received instructions from South African retail company Edcon Limited to act in an arbitration with the South African subsidiary of Barclays in a dispute over the company’s store card accounts.

The firm has been busy acting for different members of the Glencore group. It continues to represent Katanga Mining, in High Court proceedings dealing with whether the court has jurisdiction to decide the enforceability of an arbitration clause.

Werksmans has also been retained by Rosh Pinah Zinc Corporation, another company in the Glencore group based in Namibia, which is currently locked in a mining dispute with Skorpion Mining, a subsidiary of India’s Vedanta group.

Client comment

Evert Scholtz, managing director of manufacturing company Afridizi Bottling, says the firm seized command of his arbitration from the first day, showing commitment and preparation. “They knew what they were aiming for and didn’t waste time. They have proven their mettle to me over and over,” he says.

Stan Rothbart, in-house counsel at Medscheme, also praises the partners’ “total commitment and involvement” and the knowledge of the team as a whole.



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