From the answers provided by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services (Ronald Lamola) to parliamentary questions that the FF Plus has been asking since last year about administrative problems at the Master's Office of the Pretoria High Court, it seems that the problem is much greater and more extensive than the Minister is willing to admit.
Many people are still struggling to have the estates of family members, who passed away more than five years ago, finalised. Most of the master’s offices nationwide are undoubtedly experiencing a great crisis and the Minister's answers confirm this.
Among other things, the Minister said that in January this year, it came to light that 45 000 files "went missing" because a storm damaged the roof of the previous service provider where these files were being safeguarded.
Based on the Minister's answer, it seems that he was either misinformed by his officials or he is merely providing answers regarding the matter that are aimed at covering up the greater underlying crisis at numerous master’s offices nationwide.
In November last year, the FF Plus asked, among other things, what the reason was for the backlog with the documents at the Master's Office in Pretoria, particularly as regards estate administration, what was being done to address the problem and if any other master's offices are also experiencing similar problems.
The answer that was received in December 2018 was that the problems were mainly caused by changing service providers responsible for the storage of documents, that the problem would be resolved within a few months and that there are no real problems elsewhere that require "special intervention".
The Fiduciary Institute of South Africa does not agree that there are no real problems elsewhere. In a TimesLIVE media report dated 12 September 2019, a spokesperson of the Institute said that master's offices across the country are in disarray and that it is "a miracle" if just three of the 15 nationwide offices are functioning normally.
The Institute's spokesperson attributed the problems to a shortage of staff and incompetence, particularly with new appointments.
From his response to a follow-up question that was addressed to the Minister last month, it seems that the situation is indeed much more serious than his initial answer indicated. He, once again like last year, stated that the problem will be resolved within a few months.
The FF Plus is not satisfied with the Minister's answers and posed further questions to him so as to get clarity regarding contradictions about, among other things, the missing files. The Minister was also asked to play open cards about the true extent of the problems at other master's offices elsewhere in the country.
It is clear that these problems are a nationwide crisis and it is typically the making of the ANC government that is all too willing to sacrifice expertise and efficiency for the sake of Affirmative Action.
Contact number: 082 674 6670