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Order restored, but lawyers camp out overnight to settle Road Accident Fund claims

Written by Zelda Venter | Published on 21 June 2023

Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria – Hundreds of lawyers, desperate to have their clients’ claims settled directly with the Road Accident Fund (RAF), were again waiting for service yesterday after camping overnight outside Sammy Marks Square in the Pretoria CBD.

While things were moving slightly yesterday after a futile overnight wait on Monday, the process was still painfully slow with the queues hardly moving.

Proceedings were slow because only a few firms were allowed in at a time; and it took at least two hours for RAF staff to negotiate with each firm.

The lawyers did not want to miss out on the opportunity to respond to the RAF’s recent invitation to negotiate block settlements, and again braved the bitter cold night to be first in line when the offices opened yesterday morning.Some posted videos of queues stretching around the corner of Sammy Marks Square from 6am yesterday. Attorneys could be seen standing around with coffee in hand, many with blankets draped around them.

Some took camping chairs to make the overnight wait a bit easier. But a common feature was the stacks of clients’ files kept at close hand next to them.

While it was not exactly clear what time the doors opened, several attorneys commented that by 10am the queue had not moved.

Some attorneys told the Pretoria News that they were moved off the sidewalk outside the Square and made to stand in the street. The Tshwane Metro Police were, meanwhile, towing away their cars that were parked in the street.

It was not clear by the time of going to print how many attorneys were assisted by the RAF claims handlers and managed to settle their claims, but one attorney sent a message to the Pretoria News early in the afternoon, saying that the queue had barely moved.

Meanwhile, there was confusion about how many cases each attorney was allowed to present for a possible settlement. Some said they heard that it was six per law firm a day, while others said it was six per firm for the entire week.

One lawyer said his firm alone was sitting with 800 case files which were ready to be settled.

“We have been asking for block settlements regarding these 800 files since 2020,” he said.

According to him, an RAF official had said that they aimed to assist 60 to 70 law firms yesterday. “This will be a maximum of between 300 and 400 cases which will be considered. Thousands of cases will be turned away today (Tuesday) at this rate,” he said.

Another attorney who was in the queue from 5:30am, said that by early afternoon he was still standing about halfway up the street outside the square.

He doubted whether he would even make it to the entrance of the square, let alone into the office by the end of the day.

The RAF has issued a notice that it would conduct block settlements in Gauteng until the end of this month.

The fund, however, did not respond to questions from the Pretoria News as to how the second day had gone, after its failure to open its doors on Monday.

Linda Rulashe, spokesperson for the RAF, said things ran smoothly yesterday.

“Due to an enhanced queuing process, operations are running smoother on day two and should continue to do so until December at the designated venues and dates as communicated to the plaintiff attorneys.

“Attorneys are starting to heed our call; those who follow the RAF’s instructions and comply with the orderly process will receive the necessary assistance.”

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