FISA received enquiries from members about the continued failure by the Government Printing Works (GP) to publish legal gazettes and requested FISA to take it up with the Chief Master to arrange a special dispensation. However, the provisions of section 29 and 35(5) of the Administration of Estates Act are peremptory and the Master has no discretion to allow non-compliance with the requirement to place advertisements in the Government Gazette.
The Chief Master issued the following communication confirming that the Master does not have any such discretion.
“My office and the branch Masters are aware of the challenges at Government Printers. I read section29 and 35 of the Administration of the Deceased Estates Act 66 of 1965. In both sections the legislature uses the word “shall” in relation to publication in the government gazette. The legislature made it mandatory that it be so published. The challenge at Government Printers surely adversely affects your operations, our operations and the public at large. With interest of both heirs and creditors affected. I am not aware of any provisions in that Act empowering the Chief Master to suspend the application of those provisions. I wonder if the Disaster Management Act empowers the Executive in such instances to suspend operation of that section. The challenge is not the disaster but the service provider. If you know of any law empowering the Chief Master to suspend such application of section 29 and 35 as it relates to mandatory publication in the Government Gazette, let me know.
Unfortunately it is the rule of law and we have to be careful not to haste for convenience lest what we authorise may be challenged in court of law. We will be told that we acted ultra vires. I hope you understand and rather be patient in the hope that Government Printers will come right.”
In the meantime the FISA Council decided to join forces with and support The South African Restructuring & Insolvency Practitioners Association (SARIPA) in bringing an urgent court application for an order to compel the GP to disclose the extent of the problem, the steps taken to resolve it, and an indication when services will be resumed.