In the intricate tapestry of legal proceedings, a Notary Public stands out as a crucial figure, holding the authority to draw and attest contracts and various legal documents. Rooted in the annals of Roman and Roman-Dutch Law, the institution gained official recognition through an edict dated 2 March 1524. This pivotal role has evolved over centuries, marked by legislative developments that have elevated the standards and responsibilities entrusted to Notaries.


Historical Perspective:

The roots of the Notary’s function can be traced back to Roman and Roman-Dutch Law, with formal acknowledgment emerging in 1524. The first Notary in the Cape was appointed in 1672, ushering in a period where licenses were issued until 1858 for individuals to act as Notaries. In 1903, new legislation restricted the admission of Notaries exclusively to attorneys, solidifying the profession’s legal standing.


Elevated Standards of Care:

A Notary Public operates under a heightened standard of care compared to attorneys, owing to the ethical nature of their services and specialised knowledge in drafting and legalising certain documents. The esteem attached to the office reflects the significance of the Notary’s role in maintaining legal integrity and precision.


Notarial Deeds:

Certain documents, known as notarial deeds, necessitate notarial execution. In these cases, a Notary Public drafts the document, which is then signed and witnessed in their presence. Examples of such documents include ante- and postnuptial contracts, deeds of servitude, deeds of cession of usufruct, notarial leases, trust deeds of donation, and notarial bonds. Notaries are obligated to keep these documents secure and maintain a protocol and register of all drafted and attested documents.


Apostille and Authentication:

Apart from notarial deeds, Notaries play a crucial role in the legalisation of documents for international use. This process involves attestation, apostille, authentication, and notarisation of documents. Legalisation ensures that official documents intended for international use are affixed, sealed, and signed with either an Apostille Certificate (for countries party to The Hague Convention) or a Certificate of Authentication (for countries not party to The Hague Convention).


Certification of Various Documents:

Notaries are authorized to certify a range of legal documents, offering their expertise in ensuring the authenticity and legality of vital records. This includes but is not limited to marriage certificates, birth certificates, death certificates, single status certificates, divorce certificates, police clearance certificates, powers of attorney, and copies of IDs or passports.



In navigating the complex terrain of legal documentation, a Notary Public emerges as a beacon of reliability, ensuring the authenticity and legality of critical documents. Their role, deeply embedded in legal traditions and evolving with legislative changes, showcases the indispensable nature of Notaries in upholding legal standards and facilitating the smooth execution of various legal processes. If you find yourself in need of legal advice or assistance with document drafting, do not hesitate to contact ESI Attorneys’ offices to reach out to a qualified Notary Public.