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Monday Dec 04, 2017

Pretoria conveyancers puzzled by urgency of demarcation meeting

Emotions are running high ahead of a stakeholders engagement meeting today between Pretoria and Johannesburg conveyancers and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform about proposed changes to the demarcation of boundaries for the deeds offices in the two cities.

Despite the department stressing that there was no intention to make the Johannesburg Deeds Office the main deeds office, the legal fraternity in Pretoria is up in arms over the proposed changes, because it believes it will lead to the closure of firms in the capital city and a loss of jobs.

The Pretoria Attorneys Association said the result of the proposed changes in the demarcation, whether intended or not, would be that the Johannesburg Deeds Office would be the main deeds office.

Tensions increased further last week when the notice about today's meeting signed by Carlize Knoesen, the chief registrar of deeds in Pretoria, was sent out because of the short notice period given for the meeting, the scheduled time of the meeting and the requirement that notaries and conveyancers who wanted to attend had to preregister by Friday.

A petition signed by about 60 attorneys objecting, among other things, to the fact that the meeting was initially scheduled to take place between 9am and 11am today was submitted to the deeds office in Pretoria.

Their main objection was that the scheduled time of the meeting was the key time when conveyancers were required to be in the deeds office to lodge their property transfer documentation, which meant they would be unable to attend.

It also led to the Pretoria Attorneys Association instructing its attorneys to send a letter to Knoesen to register its objection to the way the meeting had been arranged. The time of the meeting was subsequently shifted to 1pm today.

Several conveyancers, who spoke to Business Report but did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, also asked why attendance was being restricted to notaries and conveyancers when there were many other stakeholders who would be impacted by the proposed changes.

Business Report did not receive a response to a list of questions e-mailed to the department on Friday.

The conveyancers were all puzzled why the department was trying to push through the change with so much urgency now when it has had 23 years to make this change. "Something is driving this," said one.

They were also concerned that the meeting in Midrand was for both Pretoria and Johannesburg conveyancers, because it could result in confrontations between the two groups of attorneys.

Linda Page, the chief director strategic communications at the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs, previously told Business Report the deeds registration branch initiated the alignment of deeds registries' areas of jurisdictions to the provincial boundaries programme with the intention of aligning the deeds registries' areas of jurisdiction to provincial demarcation as articulated in the constitution.

Page said this was to ensure each deeds registry serviced the province in which it was located, making it accessible to clients. She added that Gauteng was different, because it had two deeds offices and the department therefore had to rationalise according to municipal boundaries, particularly the metros.

Page claimed there would not be any job losses or negative financial implications from implementing the programme but confirmed the department had not conducted a socio-economic impact assessment of the proposed changes.

Business Report


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