All 15 Masters’ Of­fices raided

SEARCH AND SEIZURE OP­ER­A­TIONS: GRAFT AP­PAR­ENTLY WIDE­SPREAD AND ON GRAND SCALE

The Citizen (KZN) - - News - Ciaran Ryan

‘A breed­ing ground for preda­tors look­ing to pick at the ca­dav­ers of de­ceased es­tates.’

Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Min­is­ter Ron­ald Lamola an­nounced on Mon­day that all 15 Masters’ Of­fices within the high courts were to be shut down for a day while the Spe­cialised In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit (SIU) con­ducted search and seizure op­er­a­tions.

Lamola apol­o­gised for any in­con­ve­nience, adding: “This in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ne­ces­si­tated by sev­eral al­le­ga­tions of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and cor­rup­tion and the Mpumalanga case wherein it is alleged an of­fi­cial in the Mas­ter’s amassed R1.7 mil­lion through fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ties, which fur­ther high­lighted the need for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of this na­ture.

“As a re­sult, we will be shut­ting down all Masters’ Of­fices across the coun­try to en­able the SIU to gather, col­late and re­trieve in­for­ma­tion rel­e­vant to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion with­out any hin­drance.”

One of the pri­mary tasks of the Mas­ter’s Of­fice is ad­min­is­tra­tion of de­ceased and in­sol­vent es­tates. It also ad­min­is­ters the Guardian’s Fund, which man­ages money on be­half of those deemed legally in­ca­pable, mi­nors, un­born heirs and miss­ing or un­trace­able peo­ple.

King Sibiya, head of Lun­gelo Lethu Hu­man Rights Foun­da­tion, which de­fends the poor against abu­sive cred­i­tor prac­tices, said he has been com­plain­ing for years about cor­rup­tion in and around the Masters’ Of­fices, which he said were breed­ing grounds for preda­tors look­ing to pick at the ca­dav­ers of de­ceased es­tates.

“We are in­un­dated with cases of wid­ows whose hus­bands have passed on and who, in terms of the law, are the rightful ex­ecu­tors of the de­ceased es­tate.

“But it is com­mon prac­tice among banks to have them­selves ap­pointed as ex­ecu­tors in­stead, par­tic­u­larly where there is an out­stand­ing mort­gage loan owed by the de­ceased.

“This leads to huge con­flicts of in­ter­est where banks are de­cid­ing how to share the spoils in their favour, with no proper over­sight what­so­ever from the Mas­ter. The banks then rush to court to fore­close on a mort­gaged prop­erty with­out fol­low­ing the law.

“I am ob­vi­ously ex­tremely pleased the SIU is now look­ing into this and that we might fi­nally get some jus­tice for the thou­sands of peo­ple who have been fi­nan­cially ripped off by this kind of preda­tory be­hav­iour.”

Tony Kay, a KwaZulu-Na­tal prop­erty de­vel­oper, has cam­paigned for years for po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate the nexus be­tween liq­uida­tors and the Masters’ Of­fices af­ter a Shelly Beach prop­erty deal he was in­volved in went pear-shaped. It was then that the liq­uida­tors stepped in. The prop­erty de­vel­op­ers in this case, like many oth­ers, com­plained the auc­tion process was ir­reg­u­lar.

The Pre­to­ria Mas­ter’s Of­fice last year launched an in­quiry into a botched prop­erty deal in which Pi­eter­mar­itzburg liq­uida­tor Pierre Ber­range was in­volved. In re­cent years, the com­plaints against liq­uida­tors and Masters’ Of­fices have mul­ti­plied – along with the sums in­volved.

“We want a Mas­ter’s Of­fice that will con­duct its af­fairs with

We might fi­nally get some jus­tice for the peo­ple

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