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First and foremost, a Notary Public (“Notary”) is an admitted attorney who has passed a specialized examination in notarial practice and has been admitted as a Notary by the High Court of South Africa. By law, certain documents must be drawn and attested by a Notary.

Every Notary is obliged to maintain a protocol in which the original copy of each and 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 in numerical and date sequence.

The Notary’s protocol must be kept in a safe place and, when the Notary ceases to practice, the protocol and the protocol register must be lodged with the Registrar of High Court of the province where the Notary last practiced.


When documents are required to be executed by a Notary before registration at the Deeds office, they are referred to as Notarial deeds. Notarial deeds include, inter alia, Ante-and-Post Nuptial Contracts, Deeds of servitudes (right of way, water pipelines, electrical power lines, etc.), deeds of cession of Usufruct, deeds of cession of exclusive use areas, notarial leases, trust deeds of donation, notarial tie agreements, Notarial Bonds, etc.

The parties to a Notarial deed or an agent, duly authorized by a special power of attorney, must appear before a Notary and execute it in the presence of two subscribing witnesses.


Although there is a variety of documents that can be notarized by a Notary Public, the most common documents that are encountered in practice include the following:

  • Marriage Certificates
  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Educational qualifications
  • Police Clearance Certificates

The copies of the above documents may be certified as true copies of their originals by a Notary whenever it is a prerequisite to do so, for instance, the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) requires candidates who are lodging applications for enrolment as health practitioners to submit copies of their qualifications certified as true copies of their originals by a Notary Public.


In Practice, a Notary is often required to authenticate the signature on documents for use in foreign countries. The purpose of authentication is to verify the identity of the person who signed the document and provides conclusive proof that the person who purported to sign the document in question was in fact that person. The Notary must do so by signing and sealing the Apostille certificate for documents to be used internationally – (if the country in question is a member of The Hague Convention) or by signing and sealing authentication certificate for documents to be used internationally – (if the country in question is not a member of The Hague Convention.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the responsibilities and duties of a Notary Public. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Contact us for bespoke legal advice at

By Ndivho Netsianda

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