As I write this I feel deeply ashamed; ashamed of a legal system that delivers unspeakable injustice to a poor man trying to provide his family with a home. That man is Mbulelo Mtati. He is a cleaner at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. No-one could call him well-off. In October 2010 he signed a deed of sale to buy a property from sellers Mr and Mrs Bacela. The asking price of R50,000 was to be paid on registration of transfer. That transfer would be passed by the Bacelas’ conveyancer, the respected Grahamstown legal firm, Whitesides. Just what happened next is not clear. As the court put it, there is a material dispute of fact between the parties "and each party blames the other". But here’s the bottom line: before the house was transferred, the entire purchase price was put into the sellers’ account. Nothing was kept back to cover the outstanding bond and the rates and services charges due at the date of transfer. The sellers, once they received the funds, refused to co-operate. T...

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