Written by Zelda Venter | Published Feb 28, 2023
Pretoria – Obtaining court dates for trials involving Road Accident Fund (RAF) matters still remains an uphill battle.
In this regard, Pretoria law firm Gert Nel Incorporated is still awaiting word from the Constitutional Court (Concourt) on whether it will entertain this constitutional challenge.
It filed an application with the Concourt in December, in a bid to access the highest court in the country directly. The legal challenge involved the legality of court directives legal practitioners have to navigate to attain court dates for their clients in claims against the RAF.
According to the head of the law firm, Gert Nel, the hurdles caused delays and in some cases, claimants had to wait years before their cases were dealt with by the court.
He said in some cases lodged with the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, the backlog was so big that new matters could only receive a trial date in 2026.
Meanwhile, destitute members of the public who have lodged claims are forced to wait for their cases to be addressed.
lf left unchecked, the high court would reach the point of total collapse, Nel said.
Since lodging court papers with the Concourt, only four of the 10 respondents, including the RAF, have indicated that they will oppose the application. However, they have not yet filed any opposing court papers.
Neither the minister of justice nor the minister of transport have yet indicated whether they will oppose the application, Nel said.
The directive from the Office of Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is also still pending, though the deadline for the parties to file their opposing papers has been fast approaching.
The firm had meanwhile sent a letter to the office of the chief justice in which they ask for directives regarding the hearing of the matter. The law firm said in the letter that its concerns raised in the application – that it is an uphill battle for them to obtain trial dates in RAF matters – were escalating.
“No concise effort has been made to address the ever-growing backlog of outstanding court dates,” Nel said.
According to him an “unfortunate consequence” of the scarcity of trial dates was court officials deciding to place or remove matters at their discretion from the roll, despite practitioners having exercised due diligence in the process of securing the dates.
Nel said they recently faced a situation in which a court official removed a matter from the roll simply because of a digit issue on a case number. This, after the law firm had waited for years to have its day in court.
The matter pertains to a woman who suffered an amputation in an accident in September 2016. Summons was served in the matter in February 2018 and since then all reasonable attempts have been made to secure a trial date and settlement on behalf of the client.
This meant she had to wait two more years for her day in court, as the court rolls were fully booked until 2025. The matter was, eventually, placed back on the roll. But Nel stressed the importance of the Concourt challenge, in which he is asking for a formal investigation into the administration of the court roll.
He said although they managed to get this client back on the roll, she was one of the few road accident victims fortunate to have their day in court.
Nel expressed the hope that the application would be heard “as soon as possible” as each passing day translated to victims having a lesser chance of achieving financial, physical and/or mental rehabilitation.