If you have been following the local news you may recall reports of a “ransomware attack” that took place on 5 September 2021 on the IT infrastructure of the Department of Justice and Constitution Development (“the DOJ”). This attack has virtually paralysed the Office of the Master of the High Court, the branch of the DOJ that administers all Deceased Estates and Trust.
The current crisis comes on top of the long delays already experienced with service delivery from the Master’s Office, which arose as a consequence of the Covid pandemic. And, unfortunately, these issues have directly affected our delivery to our clients on Estate and Trust matters.
The Master’s Office is currently “offline”, with many of its employees only being able to access their computers for the first time last week. However, the Master’s IT system, the Integrated Case Management System, remains down and unable to register new Estates and Trusts or any developments in them. It was proposed to the Master’s Office that they issue manual Letters of Executorship and Authority to ensure that new Estates and Trusts are registered. However, the Master’s Office has refused to do so on the basis that the risk of fraud is too high. The Master’s Office has not proposed any alternative solutions to this crisis to date.
We are working closely with the professional bodies representing attorneys and accountants as well as the Fiduciary Institute of South Africa (which represents nearly a thousand fiduciary practitioners), in an effort to come to a workable solution to these issues. We will do our utmost to ensure all our clients’ matters are dealt with as soon as possible by the Master’s Office and will keep you updated of further developments.