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Wednesday Aug 19, 2020

Plan to tackle deeds office closures

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza has met with the chief registrar of deeds and all provincial registrars to put in place a concrete plan to address backlogs at deeds offices across the country.

Didiza's meeting came after numerous complaints from various stakeholders regarding backlogs and constant closures of deeds offices.

Last month, KwaZulu-Natal estate agents said while business was booming, the repeated closures of the deeds office due to Covid-19 infections were severely hampering property transactions.

The agents said a registration of a property, which usually took up to three months, could now take up to five months due to backlog.

The ministry said Didiza appreciated the important role that deeds offices play in the property sector and in the recovery of the economy postCovid-19.

"I want to guarantee all stakeholders that safety of our employees will not be compromised and we will all work very hard to address backlogs as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, which affected the operations of these offices," said Didiza.

According to the ministry, the following measures would be put in place to ensure that deeds offices address backlogs while continuing to attend to new lodgements: Examination of deeds: All examiners will be allowed to examine documents at home in order to fast-track the process. Rearrangement of offices: All deeds offices will rearrange their offices to ensure physical distancing and safety of staff, even those with comorbidities.

Tools of trade: All officials to be provided with all relevant tools of trade to allow them to work from home. However, it is understood that in some instances this may not be possible due to various factors such as where offices are in rural areas and where it is not safe to do so.

Upgrading of deeds offices' IT systems to respond to the 4th Industrial Revolution to be prioritised despite budget cuts due to Covid-19.

Closure of offices: The department to ensure that closure of offices is minimised. Various options will be undertaken, which are not limited to ensuring that decontamination is only done in affected areas and not in the whole building, and also to ensure that all officials continue to work while at home.

"We will ensure that all health and safety measures as stipulated by the departments of Health and Employment and Labour are adhered to," said Didiza.

Meanwhile, the ministry also announced that Didiza had extended the validity period of the Covid-19 Disaster Agricultural Support Fund Voucher system to September 30.

The extension was due to supply chain disruptions to the availability of production inputs caused by Covid-19, which negatively affected farmers' ability to redeem their vouchers, delays in the printing of vouchers and non-availability of some production inputs in the market.

"I have noted that there are still challenges on the ground being experienced by both farmers, and suppliers when it comes to the availability of some production inputs such as dayold chicks and seedlings, as well as errors picked up on some vouchers which relate to incorrect ID numbers, and incorrect allocation of production inputs," said Didiza.

The minister had also instructed the department to identify applicants that were erroneously disqualified and to make sure they are provided with production inputs.

"I have considered all these challenges and decided that it would be prudent to extend the validity period to September 30, 2020, to allow suppliers to build adequate stocks of production inputs and farmers to redeem their vouchers," said Didiza.

The Mercury
14 Aug 2020


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