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Welcome to Scorpion’s Legal Tips! Every week we’ll share stories of injustice and show you how you can strike back legally.
Blessing* got a court order against a guy that owed him money – R18 900 to be exact. When the guy failed to pay him his money as per the court order, he went back to court for a warrant of execution and instructed a sheriff to execute the judgment. He paid the sheriff a fee of R1 000 for this. The sheriff told Blessing that the attachment and execution would happen on a set date and that he would be contacted once the execution is done. But the sheriff never contacted Blessing, it seems the sheriff is nowhere to be found, and Blessing still hasn’t gotten any of his money back. AZIKHIPHI! That’s not on! Scorpion Legal Protection discusses what the law says about sheriffs and what Blessing can do.
Firstly, it’s important to know that the sheriff is an impartial and independent official of the court appointed by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development. The sheriff or deputy sheriff’s role is to serve or execute all documents issued by our courts. These include summonses, notices, warrants and court orders. It’s interesting to note that sheriffs operate independently from each other, and are actually private business people, not government employees like most people think. Because of this, it’s a good idea to ask for identification so you are not scammed by fake sheriffs looking to make a quick buck off you. All sheriffs and deputies must carry a valid identification card issued by the South African Board of Sheriffs (SABFS) and must be able to produce it on request.
They are also controlled by the South African Board for Sheriffs (SABFS), which monitors the service of sheriffs and their deputies to make sure they carry out their duties according to the Code of Conduct for Sheriffs. This Code of Conduct includes things like paying out the money owed to the person entitled to it without avoidable delay, treating people with dignity and empathy, and acting without avoidable delay in accordance with the rules of court.
What can you do if you have a complaint against a sheriff, like in Blessing’s case? If you have a complaint, or if you are unsure of your rights, contact the SABFS via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 021 426 0577. The SABFS also has a fraud hotline to allow people to bring any unethical business practices to the attention of senior management. The toll-free number is 0800 000 628.
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* This is only basic advice and cannot be relied on solely. Names have been changed to protect identity.
Date added: 3 September 2019
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