Matthews, who vacated the office in September, executed summonses, notices, warrants and court orders in the Umzinto, Pennington, Hibberdene, Turton, Scottburgh and Vulamehlo areas.
She was apparently supposed to have stopped operating in February when the SA Board of Sheriffs’ executive Sharon Snell first raised the issue in a letter addressed to the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court.
Snell said Matthews was not allowed to operate because she had not been issued a fidelity fund certificate for 2017.
“You are advised to refrain from forwarding any court processes to Matthews Furthermore, any service affected by her will be viewed as null and void,” wrote Snell.
The court was advised to use an ad hoc sheriff until an acting appointment was made but that was only done in October. The fidelity fund is an insurance scheme that reimburses members of the public if found to have fallen victim of the misappropriation of funds in the hands of legal professionals.
Spokesperson for the Department of Justice Mthuzi Mhaga confirmed Matthews was advised of the issue.
“The department was aware and made her aware. Since that day, the office did not make use of her services and did ad hoc appointments via the board.”
He said any services affected by her could be null and void.
However, some of the people who spoke to the Sunday Tribune, including lawyers, alleged that Matthews was a regular feature in civil matters until the end of September.
“I didn’t know she didn’t have a fidelity fund certificate until people started talking about it after she left office.
“This is going to be a scandal because legal firms who used her are now exposed to litigation even though I doubt many of them knew that she was operating illegally,” said one a lawyer, who asked not to be named.
Graham Pickston was affected by Matthews actions.
His car was taken away by Matthews in July after it was attached in a court matter over the R19 000 debt he owed Andrew and Lauren Davey. He failed to pay his rent from October 2016 to February.
Pickston lost the case and was evicted from the two-bedroom home and his car was never returned to him. Six documents, including the execution of the attachment and the eviction, were delivered to him by Matthews during the course of the year.
“I’m clearly one of the victims of rogue justice. I am destitute but my two dogs and four cats are also suffering because we are now forced to live apart,” he said.
He said he was not sure whether the legal firm representing the Daveys, Van Den Bosch and Rousseau, had been aware of Matthews’ sheriff status when they used her services in July.
“She had no legal authority to take my car and I hope Van Den Bosch and Rousseau have not sold it because I want it back,” said Pickston.
The 70-year old said the matter had taken its toll on him as he had to either take a taxi or borrow a car from a friend to get around.
“I lived in the Davey’s house for more than six years and I didn’t intentionally stop paying rent. I’ve been struggling financially and my state pension is obviously not enough so I supplement my income by working on an ad hoc basis manufacturing cream for treating skin conditions like eczema. But I can’t deliver the cream to all my customers because I have no car.”
Pickston has lodged an appeal against the order which resulted in the attachment of his beloved VW Citi Golf which he feared had remained stationary since it was taken from him in July.
He has also written to the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society asking for the council to instruct Van Den Bosch and Rousseau to return his car.
“The sheriff (Matthews) was well aware that she needed a fidelity certificate when she took office in January and the letter from the Board of Sherrifs had a clear instruction for her to stop operating as any service affected by her would be viewed as null and void.”
Mhaga said the department had appointed an inspector who would be submitting a report on the findings and recommendations to the Board of Sheriffs.
When contacted for comment Matthews said: “I don’t want to talk about it.”
She then handed the phone to her partner Johan Coertse who was repeatedly asked about Matthews’ fidelity fund certificate but failed to answer the question.
Instead, he said she had retired four months ago, before that she had been severely ill and spent about six weeks in hospital.
“Pickston just wants to cause trouble. You are not the first newspaper to call us but he has no case and he knows it otherwise he would have gone to court,” he said.
Coertse claimed that Pickston’s car was returned to him three weeks ago.
He did, however, confirm that many lawyers used Matthews’s services and many still owed her Sheriff fees.