We often hear that documents need to be certified as true copies of the original document, or that an affidavit needs to be sworn to. Now this brings us to the question: Who are to certify the documents and what exactly does a sworn affidavit entail?

Firstly, the certification of documents and the confirmation of a sworn affidavit is done by a Commissioner of Oath – a person who is authorised to verify affidavits. These refer to statements in writing done under oath as a means to authenticate, well, the authenticity of documents such as Identity documents.

Before administering an oath, a Commissioner must ask the following questions:

  1. Do you know and understand the contents of the affidavit/declaration?
  2. Do you have any objection to taking the prescribed oath?
  3. Do you consider the prescribed oath to be binding on your conscience?

Should a person acknowledges that he understands the declaration, has no objection to taking the oath, and considers the oath to be binding on his conscience, he or she will be requested to say: “I swear that the contents of this declaration are true, so help me God.”

But in case the person has an objection to taking the oath or does not consider that content of the affidavit as binding, the Commissioner will administer an affirmation by requesting the person to say: “I truly affirm that the contents of this declaration are true.” Thereafter, the affidavit or declaration is to be signed in front of the Commissioner of Oaths.

Kindly note that Commissioners of Oaths are not permitted to administer any oath or declaration relating to matters in which he or she has an interest. Furthermore, they are not permitted to charge a fee for the certification of a document or affirmation of an affidavit or declaration.

In conclusion, a Commissioner of Oath is appointed by the Mister of Justice in terms of the Justice of the Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act 16 of 1963, so this position is held (but not limited to) by an attorney, an advocate, the manager of a bank, the principal or headmaster of a school, a member of parliament, and any member of the police force. A full list of these appointees can be found in the Government Gazette 21 of July 1972, Notice 1257.


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