One may be forgiven for believing that issues concerning the interpretation of court orders awarding interest would have been solved many years ago.  But that is not so as the latest SCA judgment deals with this problem.  Here are some extracts with footnotes omitted.  On appeal from the South Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg (Kolbé AJ) sitting as court of first instance):

Euro Blitz 21 v Secena Aircraft Investments CC (102/14) [2015] ZASCA 21; [2015] JOL 32990 (SCA) (19 March 2015) per Mbha JA (Maya, Majiedt and Pillay JJA and Mayat AJA concurring)

Excerpts without footnotes

[7]        In my view and having regard to the above rule of interpretation, the word ‘calculated’ in the trial court’s order pertaining to interest, must be given its grammatical and ordinary meaning, unless that would result in some absurdity, repugnancy or inconsistency with the rest of the order. To ‘calculate’ means to ‘[e]stimate or determine by arithmetical or mathematical reckoning; estimate or determine by practical judgement or on the basis of experience’.

[8]        To ‘capitalise’ on the other hand means to ‘convert into a capital sum’. Needless to say, the term capitalisation of interest is interchangeable with the expression compounding of interest. Thus ‘compound interest’ is defined as ‘reckoned on the principal together with the accumulated unpaid interest’. This must be contrasted with simple interest, which is reckoned or determined on the principal or capital sum.

[9]        As can clearly be seen, ‘capitalised’ and ‘compound’ on the one hand bear a different meaning to the word ‘calculated’. In terms of its definition, capitalisation of interest, is no more than an accounting exercise which is designed to simplify the calculation of compound interest, in respect of which the interest’s identity remains intact. In other words the concept is merely concerned with what is to be done with the interest after it has been calculated. Thus, it is quite possible that in certain circumstances capitalisation might amount to a novation thereby converting the interest element into capital. However ‘calculated’ only refers to the period or method of calculating interest on the capital amount. The calculation will be in respect of either simple or compound interest which may be done on an annual, monthly or as in this case, on a daily basis. There is accordingly a clear distinction between a method of calculation of interest on the one hand, and the method of accounting for interest after its calculation on the other.

. . . . .

[11]      The legal principles governing the applicability of compound interest also militate against the interpretation which the respondent seeks to have attached to the clause in question, especially when it is compared against simple interest. As a starting point, it is accepted generally that where in a written agreement, compound interest is not expressly provided for, only simple interest was due.