Lack of security and intimidation are threatening civil court sheriffs from doing their job of dispensing justice in the country.

This came out at the 4th Annual General Meeting of the South African Sheriffs Society held in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape on Saturday.

Sheriffs have been described as a key element of the justice system.

The gathering will ensure they are educated on the new policies regulating their work.

Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffrey says; “Sheriffs basically are the practical arm of civil courts. Courts can make orders, they won’t be enforced because that person who enforces them is the sheriff.

But when it comes to the criminal court, it’s the police. In the civil court, if you must pay out a debt or you can’t afford to pay out and your property has to be attached and auctioned, it’s a sheriff who has to do that. So they are an indispensable arm of the civil court.”

Sheriffs have however expressed concerns about their difficult working conditions.

They say they face dangerous situations when carrying out court orders.

President of South African Board of Sheriffs Prince Maluleka says; “Our members are facing threats when they do their job. We just recently had an incident where a deputy sheriff was shot while trying to do his job.

So those are serious issues. We also have in some instances where police are not necessarily giving us full support when we go into some of the most volatile areas. So we also appeal to the police to also assist us.”

“It’s very important to interact with sheriffs, hear from them, what the issues are and their problems. So this AGM is important. Sheriffs must feel they are part of the system,” says Deputy Minister Jeffrey.

An awareness campaign to educate communities about the importance of sheriffs has been suggested.

Sheriffs have also been urged to uphold the dignity of human kind and to work within the Constitution.