The office of the notary public is attached with great importance and documents executed by a notary public are regarded highly. The significance of having documents notarially executed flows from the high nature of the office and duties of the notary public. A notary public is in terms of section 2 of the Deeds Registries Act (Chapter 20:05) , “ a person registered as such in terms of the Legal Practitioners Act ( Chapter 27:07) and in relation to any document executed outside Zimbabwe, it means a person lawfully practicing as such in the place where the document was executed”. The duties of a notary public include drawing and attesting contracts and documents as well as authenticating public acts. Where a document is executed notarially, it signifies that the notary public checked and is responsible for the accuracy of the information in the certificate. In other words it signifies that all proper solemnities have been observed. There is a tradition of honesty and reliability attached to the office of the notary public. The greatest confidence and trust is reposed in any document by a notary.
A notary public is a specialist in the field, private individuals may well be skilled draftsmen but the public has no guarantee as to their ability and trustworthiness. Notarial documents are regarded as being different from documents signed by ordinary legal practitioners or any other person trusted with the responsibility of executing documents. The duties of a notary public involve administering oaths and declarations, authentication of legal acts, certifying acts, attesting to and acknowledging acts. In taking oaths, a notary public ascertains the truth regarding the material statements contained in that document. Attestation, on the other hand, regards to the signing of a document by a witnesses’ signature. Certification is more or less like attestation but in certification the notary public would have the intention of ascertaining the truth of a fact that has been put before him. This shows that there is more expected from a notary public than any other ordinary legal practitioner. Notaries are not only appointed by the courts but they always remain subject to the control and discipline of the court and they may be removed from the office at any time. They are given certain special privileges and in return the court insists on the highest possible degree of good faith in all work undertaken and such a standard of good conduct and behavior as will testify to the fitness of the practitioner for the position of trust in which he has been placed. A notary public is thus expected to continuously conduct himself in a manner that befits of an office taken highly by the courts.
The accuracy of notarial documents is guaranteed because failure to prepare an accurate document by a notary attracts civil liability. The notary public would be liable to damages for professional negligence to any person who may suffer as a result thereof. Accordingly a notary who does not use reasonable skill in the exercise of his calling or draws a document which is not legal, may be held liable for damages to any person who may suffer as a result thereof. This effectively means that the notary public will exercise due diligence and care in executing notarial documents. By so doing the public interest is greatly protected.
International recognition is one of the important aspects as well. A document executed by a notary public is also regarded internationally as a document of high esteem. Notarial practice is concerned with the certification and verification of a document that will be used in other countries of the world for clients who have business or property or who are involved in litigation in foreign courts. Thus such certified and verified documents are significant because inter alia, the notary public mainly acts as an impartial and legally trained witness to authenticate and certify the execution of documents required or intended for use outside Zimbabwe. A good illustration here is a power of attorney which when notarially executed even outside Zimbabwe can easily be accepted as conferring power on the person so identified in the document. Another scenario happens when dealing with general or underhand documents as these are not accepted in evidence in foreign countries. In summary notarial instruments, if prima facie duly executed are: presumed valid and regular; self authenticating; probative; public; self-executing and have a fixed, unalterable effective data.
At Lawman Chimuriwo Attorneys we offer notarial services. We are registered notaries and therefore are authorised to sign notarial deeds for change of name and other such deeds. The most common areas of our practice are in residential and commercial conveyancing and registration, contract drafting, company formation, successions and estate planning, and powers of attorney.