You may have often required the services of a Notary Public without understanding the role of the Notary. The origin of the notarial office began before the Roman period. As far back as 1000BC, Notaries were seen by the Hebrews as scribes, connected to the law.
A Notary is revered as showing the highest level of competency in executing a notarial document. These documents include antenuptial contracts that couples enter into before getting married, notarial servitudes granting rights over immovable property and long leases over immovable property that are registered in the Deeds Office and notarial bonds over moveable assets, as well as certification of documents and signatures, to name a few. Under South African law, a Notary is a public officer charged by the Supreme Court to draw and attest contracts and other documents and to authenticate public acts. A Notary Public is an attorney admitted and authorised by the High Court of South Africa after having written specialised examinations for notarial practice.
Often you will need documents certified for use outside of South Africa by a Notary, whose signature, in turn, is confirmed by way of Apostille by the Registrar of the High Court. The Registrar by affixing his stamp, confirms that the Notary Public has in fact been admitted by the High Court of South Africa and is authorised to act in this capacity.
In the performance of their duties, Notaries must exhibit a high level of knowledge, skill, quality of work, and care, which go beyond the professional duties of legal practitioners. The duties of a Notary include, taking care that the facts attested to by him or her are accurate and that the required formalities have been duly observed; that the content of the relevant notarial documents are explained to and understood by the clients appearing before him or her before signing; that no gaps appear in any documents executed before him or her, and that documents are completed and regular in all respects before they are signed.
The Notary is obliged to maintain a Protocol in which the original copy of every notarial deed that has been executed before him or her must be filed in numerical and date sequence, as well as a Protocol Register that records the notarial deeds that have been executed.
It is customary for every Notary Public to affix his notarial seal to each document or deed he/she executes, authenticates or certifies. This notarial seal usually contains his or her full names and the words “Notary Public”. This seal (normally red) gives the document an air of “authenticity”.
In acting as a Notary, a high level of care and confidentiality regarding the affairs of his or her client is observed. The Notary must ensure that the parties appearing before him or her have the necessary capacity to act.
CAROL JEAN WIGGETT