• Masters' Offices closed across the country for SIU corruption probe

    From Steve Hayes@21:1/5 to All on Tue Feb 4 08:09:41 2020
    XPost: soc.genealogy.misc, alt.genealogy, alt.history
    XPost: soc.history, za.politics

    This news will affect genealogists and family historians in South
    Africa, as the records of the Master of the High Court are the ones
    most used in genealogical research.

    Masters' Offices closed across the country for SIU corruption probe

    03 February 2020 - 19:11

    Allegations of corruption at Masters’ Offices throughout the country
    have led to a temporary closure.

    The justice department will shut down all Masters' Offices across the
    country as part of an investigation into allegations of
    maladministration, corruption and fraud.

    This was announced by justice minister Ronald Lamola on Monday, after
    a search and seizure operation conducted by the Special Investigating
    Unit (SIU) at the Master’s Office in Johannesburg.

    President Cyril Ramaphosa had authorised the SIU probe.

    “Following this proclamation, the Special Investigating Unit conducted
    a search and seizure operation today in the Masters’ Offices across
    the country,” Lamola told the media.

    “This investigation was necessitated by several allegations of maladministration and corruption — and the Mpumalanga case, wherein it
    is alleged that an official in the Master’s amassed R1.7m through
    fraudulent activities — which further highlighted the need for an investigation of this nature.”

    The closure was effective from Monday. The offices will not be
    accessible until Wednesday February 5.

    “We are fully aware that the Master’s Office plays a critical role in
    our communities. It is an office that works for the most vulnerable in
    our communities — it works for orphans, minor children and the
    widowed,” said Lamola.

    Its duties include the supervision of the administration of companies
    and close corporations in liquidation; the safeguarding of all
    documentary material in respect of estates, insolvencies and
    liquidations; the processing of enquiries by executors, attorneys, beneficiaries and other interested parties; and the appointment of
    executors, trustees, curators and liquidators.

    Matters that are urgent can be escalated to the head office via the
    local magistrate's office, added Lamola.

    According to the department, the investigation will look into
    maladministration in relation to the estates of deceased and insolvent
    persons, as well as the protection and administration of the funds of
    minors, contractually incapacitated and undetermined and absent heirs,
    which have been paid into the Guardian's Fund.

    Source: https://t.co/gjOpG5EsuZ?amp=1


    Masters of the high court in disarray: thousands of cases can't be

    12 September 2019 - 11:42


    When GoundUp tried to make enquiries at the Cape Town high court, the
    master of the high court, Zureena Agulhas, was unavailable, as was
    Sizakele Mbewana, a deputy master.

    Most people may never have heard of the master of the high court - but
    at some point in time most of us will have to interact with the
    entity, whether wealthy or poor.

    When a loved one dies, it needs to be reported to one of the 15
    masters' offices in the country which ensure that the deceased’s
    assets are distributed to the right people. In some cases a will or
    testament facilitates who gets what.

    So when GroundUp received a complaint from a member of the public
    about an alleged backlog of cases at the master of the high court
    office in Cape Town, we investigated.

    Following an article we published on the backlog of overdue judgments
    at the Western Cape high court, Nicci Botha claimed that there were “thousands of cases” at the master’s office that could not be wound up due to lost documents.

    His sister’s estate is one.

    Botha says he’s been waiting for more than a year for a liquidation
    and distribution letter to finalise his sister’s estate, which he says
    is a relatively simple one to wind up.

    According to the Administration of Estates Act, this process should
    take six months after a letter of executorship is issued. Botha says
    the letter was issued in April 2017, after his sister’s death on
    February 15 the same year.

    Botha was told by the executor of his sister’s estate that the office
    had lost the documents in her file. The executor had sent countless
    e-mails and made calls to the master’s office to follow up on the
    matter, with minimal response.

    When GroundUp arrived at the offices on Tuesday September 3 to
    investigate, we left without any concrete answers. The master of the
    high court, Zureena Agulhas, was unavailable and her secretary
    redirected us to Sizakele Mbewana, a deputy master, who was also
    absent from his office. We were then prompted to speak to Sanele
    Nqabeni, a senior state accountant, who told us that he wasn’t
    authorised to speak to the media - yet the office did not have a

    We then followed up with e-mail enquiries to Agulhas and Mbewana with
    no response. Agulhas’s office number was called multiple times but the
    phone just rang. An e-mail was sent to the acting chief master of the
    high court Theresia Bezuidenhout, who forwarded our query to the
    department of justice and constitutional development’s media team.
    There was no response thereafter.

    “There are 15 offices nationwide. If three of them are functioning
    normally at any given time, that’s a miracle,” said Roup.

    He flagged the Pretoria, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town
    offices as some of the worst-performing in the country.

    “That is known from the view of the practitioners. It is known from
    the view of the general public. It is also known by the acting chief
    master and she’s pulling her hair out in that respect.”

    The acting chief master said she was unable to answer our queries.

    Fisa is the only professional body and nonprofit organisation that
    represents fiduciary practitioners in southern Africa. It sets minimum standards for the industry and works closely with the master’s office
    and revenue service Sars.

    Botha and Roup pinpointed understaffing issues as a cause of the chaos
    at the Cape Town office.

    “They are under pressure in terms of deliverables, with no staff
    filling the vacant positions … The one rumour is that there is no
    money to pay the salaries for those positions. The other story is that
    there is budget, but they haven’t found the right people. So again, my
    view of it is that they are simply making excuses to not deliver,”
    said Roup.

    The master of the high court falls under the department of justice and constitutional development. There is a master’s office in each
    provincial division of the high court and it has five main duties:

    -- the administration of deceased estates,
    -- liquidations,
    -- administration of the guardian’s fund,
    -- protecting the interests of minors, and
    -- the registration and supervision of trusts.

    If a person has died and left behind property or a will, this becomes
    a deceased estate which must be administered and distributed to the
    relevant persons by the master’s office in the area where the person
    was living 12 months before their death.

    The deceased’s assets such as bank accounts are frozen, meaning
    dependents or family members cannot access the funds until the estate
    has been reported and processed by the master’s office. The longer it
    takes for the deceased estate to be wound up, the longer dependents of
    deceased people are at risk of being left without money.

    “The saddest part is that there are families who are dependent on the
    loved one’s estate being finalised, so that they can get on with their lives,” said Botha, who is still waiting for his sister’s affairs to
    be wrapped up.

    Source: https://t.co/uqtq0oGOel?amp=1

    Steve Hayes
    Web: http://hayesgreene.wordpress.com/

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