South Africa

WESTERN CAPE

The Cape Town deeds office is closed, again

The Cape Town deeds office is closed, again
The Cape Town deeds office has had several problems since it was allowed to open on 13 May 2020, says the writer. (Photo: Unsplash / Craig Whitehead)

Since 13 May 2020, when deeds offices were deemed operational under Level 4 of the lockdown, the Cape Town office has closed its doors a number of times for various reasons. Now, after being open for just over a month, it has closed again, unable to disclose when it will reopen.

The deeds office in Cape Town again closed its doors on 26 June due to a staff member testing positive for Covid-19

The office was meant to undergo a deep clean this weekend, then reopen on 29 June 2020, but it is unclear when the office will reopen. 

Reggie Ngcobo, the media liaison officer for the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, told Daily Maverick that the offices were “decontaminated yesterday [28 June] and in terms of the standard operating procedure, it must reopen 48 hours after decontamination. We will inform the public as soon as it is ready to open.” 

Daily Maverick learned from *Brian – a source at the deeds office who did not want to be identified – that the office is “hiding behind the provincial steering committee” in terms of disclosing when the office will reopen. 

It was further explained that according to the communication Brian received after the staff member tested positive on 23 June 2020, the deeds office would have to report to the provincial steering committee. 

Brian says this goes against regulations as they understood that when someone tested positive, the department of health is meant to be notified.

“We don’t know who is in this steering committee or what it consists of,” Brian told Daily Maverick. “Nowhere in the department of health regulations does it say we must report this to the steering committee, it says we must report it to the department of health so they can see if this is a low-impact risk or a high-impact risk.” 

The provincial steering committee, which falls under the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, is a committee that sits to ensure the safe return of employees who are going back to work. 

The committee is tasked with ensuring that employees are provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and that there is compliance regarding the safety of workers.

Ngcobo and Acting Chief Registrar of Deeds, David Mngcolwani, were asked to comment on the specific issue of the provincial steering committee, however, at the time of publishing, Daily Maverick had not received any comment from either. 

National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) Regional Secretary Baxolise Mali told Daily Maverick that the union is unaware of the office closing. 

“I have not received details about any recent interferences there, but all I know is that the steering committee is speaking tomorrow, but that should not be a reason why an office is not open,” Mali said. 

Mali further explained that the office could be decontaminated only on Monday, 29 June 2020, which could explain why the office has not opened yet. 

The deeds office in Cape Town has had several problems since it was allowed to open on 13 May 2020, including being understaffed when it was meant to reopen. 

“There were some glitches as there was a misunderstanding between management and the unions, but it has been resolved,” Ngcobo had said. “Because the issue was around lodgements, but the office in Cape Town is operational.”

This resulted in the opening of the office on 21 May 2020, but then it closed a day later on 22 May 2020 as one of the officials at the office had been exposed to a relative who had tested positive with Covid-19. 

The office reopened 48 hours later (26 May 2020), but a source at the office told Daily Maverick that there appeared to be a “go-slow”

And though Nehawu denied the go-slow, they still raised safety concerns regarding compliance with the non-negotiables for the workers’ safe return to the office. 

“What was also communicated was the availability of masks,” Mali had told Daily Maverick. “We also want to look at the training of people who come in to test staff and whether or not there are things for that to happen. We are also looking at whether offices are disinfected after staff leave offices… This should be looked at as Western Cape and, in particular, Cape Town is at the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.” DM

* Not their real name.

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