Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Apostles and Notorious Public prophets of doom

I recently managed to sell my share of a property that I owned in South Africa. I actually made a loss, because I got back the same amount that I paid for the piece of land 4 years ago, but I was just glad to get rid of this dead investment and move on to greener pastures.

My brother-in-law was kind enough to buy out my share, and he transferred the money to my SA bank account. After numerous struggles and hefty fees I finally managed to deposit the funds into my local Commonwealth Bank account – just in time to pay a deposit on a property deal in Melbourne. Don’t ask - but yes, Melbourne - even though I live in Perth... (it’s complicated.)

Anyway, a few days later his lawyers contacted me. We just need to finalise some of the documents, as my brother-in-law paid the funds even though the documentation hadn’t been finalized yet – which was a very kind deed from his side.

So, I owe him a lot – I need to sign these documents and make sure he gets value for his money.

Easy enough. At first, they just wanted my ID documents, my marriage certificate and my bank account details. Everything was going smoothly.

Then came the shocker:

If you sell property in South Africa, and you are not in the country to sign the documents, the documentation needs to be “apostilled”. I’ve never really heard this term before, but believe me - it’s nothing enjoyable. It sounds like some kind of sickness and is in fact worse than one.

I received a list of instructions with documents that needed to be signed. I had to sign these documents in the presence of someone who is qualified to apostille the documents. This person must be

1. Head of a South-African diplomatic or consular mission; or

2. a person in the Administrative or professional division of the public service, serving at the South-African diplomatic, consulor or Trade Office

This sounds easy, doesn’t it?

I jumped onto Google and checked it out. Yep, Perth does have a “South African Honorary Consulate” – good news.

Luckily I rang them up before travelling all the way into the city. “Nope, we don’t do that”, said the lady. “You need to go the Department of Foreign Affairs (DAFT)”.

“Which one?”, I asked - “the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs?” This doesn’t make sense, but the answer was yes.

This morning I jumped onto the train in Leederville and got off at Perth station, on the way to the Exchange Plaza. The DFAT is on level 17. I saw a door with the words “Apostille” written somewhere on it, and was feeling quite happy at finding the right place.

The lady behind the window informed me that they can’t apostille something that I sign in front of them. I need to go to a “Notary Public”, and this person would be able to do it. Then I have to return to the DAFT and hand in the documentation, and it takes 24 hours for them to finalise. It costs $60 for every page, plus $20 for binding it. For my 5 pages this means that this is going to cost me a minimum of $320, plus the Notary public’s fees.


She gave me an outdated list with names of Public Notaries on it. I saw that some of the addresses were also in St. George’s Terrace, so off I went looking for these Notorious Publicans.

They’re notoriously unavailable.

Either Mr. X is in court, or Mr. Y simply does not do this anymore. Or, “you can call his secretary and make an appointment, but he’s very busy, you know…”

I was referred from the 25th floor of one building to the 28th floor of the building across the street – then to the 4th floor of building Y, and on again to the 23rd floor of building D. In the meanwhile, the lady at the DAFT informed me that they close at 1pm. So at 1:30pm it was a lost cause anyway.

I finally had to admit defeat, and I crawled into Gloria Jeans for a coffee and a sausage roll. When I finally got onto the train I felt I a bit of a failure after wasting three hours in the city without achieving anything.

Next time I’ll plan this better. Make appointments. Pay huge sums of money. Make more appointments. Pay some more. And then hopefully mail these completed documents back to South Africa at enormous cost.

Or I could ignore it all, do nothing and hope it all goes away while I let my brother-in-law stress it out on that side.

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