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A fully electronic deeds registry system to be introduced

  • South Africa
  • Africa
  • Other


People purchase property for various reasons and daily, thousands of property transactions are concluded. When ownership of land in South Africa is affected, such transactions must be recorded in the Deeds Office. The Deeds Office is a public office that retains information of individual pieces of land in our country.

Our present land registration system is governed by, among other legislation, the Deeds Registries Act No. 47 of 1937 and the Sectional Titles Act No. 95 of 1986. This system is dependent on the integrity and the correct performance of the functions of conveyancers and the deeds registries’ employees.

It is said that, “South Africa’s property registration system is one of the safest and best in the world.” Whilst we do not reject this statement, we agree that with every perfectly operating system, improvement is essential in a technologically developing world.

In every conveyancing transaction, the conveyancer endeavors to do everything in his or her power to register the transaction accurately and expeditiously. However, this is not always the case, especially when the conveyancer is dependent on a deeds registration system that takes place manually.

As a result of continuous improvements being made to global computerization, the deeds registries faces challenges such as the following:


  1. The inability of the present registration infrastructure and resources to accommodate the increase in volume in respect of an anticipated 20 million land parcels of the Government’s land reform measures;


  1. The need to link with the electronic cadastral information system in order to improve efficiency and accuracy of South Africa’s land information management;


  1. The demand for decentralization of services in order to effect delivery at point of need;


  1. The necessity for consolidating and rationalizing diversified registration procedures created through legislation by previous political dispensation; and


  1. The need to provide registration capability for other forms of land tenure that the government may introduce in future.

Evidently, the demand for a fully electronic deeds registration system (“e-DRS”) is required. In recognition thereof, on 2nd October 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the Electronic Deeds Registration Systems Act No. 19 of 2019 (“e-DRS Act”).

The purpose of the e-DRS Act is to provide for, among other things, the registration of large volumes of deeds effectively; improve turn-around times for providing registered title deeds and documents to clients; provide country wide access to deeds registration services; enhance accuracy of examination and registration of deeds and documents; make information available to the public; and provide security features including confidentiality; non-repudiation, integrity and availability.

The e-DRS will apply to the preparation, lodgment, registration, execution and storing of deeds and documents registrable in terms of the e-DRS Act or any other related law.

In terms of the e-DRS Act, the Chief Registrar of Deeds has been tasked with the development, establishment and maintenance of the electronic deeds registration system. This will be subject to the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act No. 25 0f 2002. Additionally, the Chief Registrar of Deeds may issue practice and procedure directives that must be complied with by users interacting with the e-DRS.

The governing regulations of the e-DRS Act will set out the procedures and processes to be followed in compliance with the e-DRS Act. These regulations may vary in respect of the different deeds registries with specific matters being dealt with in terms of the e-DRS Act.

The functional requirements and technical specifications of the electronic deeds registration system will be prescribed by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform.

The project relating to the implementation of the e-DRS has commenced. Such implementation will not affect the validity of any registrations effected prior to the coming into operation of the e-DRS Act. The Registrar of Deeds will continue with the registration, execution and filing of deeds and documents as prescribed by the Deeds Registries Act and the Sectional Titles Act until the e-DRS and related provisions or regulations are in place. Subsequently, the registration procedures in terms of the Deeds Registries Act and the Sectional Titles Act will be discontinued.

We are confident that the e-DRS will have a positive impact on the conveyancing procedure.