TIME TO DIRTY THE HANDS: Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
JOHANNESBURG - Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, her department and the chief registrar of deeds have been interdicted from implementing a decision to change the demarcation of the Pretoria and Johannesburg deeds offices.

They were also interdicted from amending the definition of the area of jurisdiction of the Pretoria and Johannesburg deeds registries.

The interdict will remain in force until an application by the Pretoria Attorneys Association to review the demarcation decision has been finally determined.

The association claims the demarcation changes will lead to the closure of Pretoria legal firms and job losses. The first part of the urgent application, brought by the association and 12 attorney firms, was made an order of the Pretoria High Court earlier this week with the agreement of the parties.

Christiaan Joubert, Pretoria Attorneys Association chairperson, said in an affidavit that despite Nkoana-Mashabane not having taken a decision on the proposed change in demarcation, the department, chief registrar of deeds and Pretoria and Johannesburg registrars of deeds had begun to implement the change.

In addition, Nkoana-Mashabane had failed to prevent the department from illegally implementing the decision and had not denied that steps to implement the decision were being taken, he said.

Makaziwe Ntuli, acting chief registrar of deeds in Pretoria, denied there had been any implementation of the proposed decision prior to a decision being taken. She also denied that the title deeds of affected properties had been scanned to effect transfer of these properties to the Johannesburg deeds office, but said title deeds that might have to be transferred had been identified.

She confirmed that the process of inviting staff members who voluntarily wished to be considered for a transfer to the Johannesburg deeds office had occurred, but stressed it had been made clear this was subject to the decision to be taken by Nkoana-Mashabane.

However, Joubert said this information was contradicted by the contents of a document in the respondents’ answering affidavit that formed the basis for a briefing of Nkoana-Mashabane by the department’s acting director general, Leona Archary, on April 3.

Joubert said a paragraph in the document stated: “The various processes that need to be undertaken in the endeavour to give effect to the amendment of the definition of the area of jurisdiction of the Pretoria Deeds Registry and Johannesburg Deeds Registry, such as the identification of the affected records, the scanning of records and the transfer of records have been completed.”

Joubert said there was therefore a stark contradiction between the contents of this document and the defence now relied upon by the respondents in resisting the first part of this application and “placed the bona fides of the respondents in question”.

Joubert further claimed that a site for the construction of new, larger offices for the Johannesburg Deeds Registry had been identified and the department had admitted to allowing the current lease agreement for the current office to lapse last year.

Boundaries

Ntuli said the essence of the realignment programme was to realign or redefine the areas of jurisdiction of deeds registries throughout the country in accordance with provincial boundaries, and in some instances municipal boundaries.

She denied that the realignment would result in about 60percent to 80percent of the total deeds registration presently handled by the Pretoria deeds registry in future being handled by the Johannesburg deeds registry.

She said an extensive investigation had revealed that the total percentage of lodgements of deeds that would move to Johannesburg if the decision was approved by Nkoana-Mashabane was 51percent.

Joubert said it appeared that there had not been any investigation into the consequences of the proposed decision.

- BUSINESS REPORT