By: Zelda Venter
Pretoria – Over the next few days or weeks, most of us will get ready to take to the roads for our holiday destinations – and this has me very worried because of the number of accidents on our roads.
There is no more beating about the bush. The Road Accident Fund (RAF) is clearly dysfunctional and bankrupt.
I do not know who to blame. The system, perhaps, or the chief executive Collins Letsoalo, whom many seem to blame, or simply plain mismanagement and fraud on the part of some claim handlers?
While it is up to the courts to decide these vital issues, all I know is that we are all in deep trouble if we are involved in a vehicle accident – especially during this time while the RAF is facing a plethora of issues.
Since the beginning of this year, the court roll – especially in Pretoria – has been congested with a number of applications from and against the RAF. This is apart from about 80% of the daily civil rolls consisting of RAF claims.
While reams and reams of affidavits concerning this topic have served before a host of judges, all the applications boil down to one thing – non-payment of claims and not being able to pay them.
Desperate law firms have attached the moving assets of the RAF – such as equipment at its various offices – in a bid to sell and recover the money owed to their clients.
But, as stated by the RAF in these applicants, it is not a solution as it leaves the administrators without tools to do their work.
In the latest legal spate, some law firms have attached the bank accounts of the fund in a desperate attempt to recover their money.
This, together with a host of other applications, are pending before the court.
A full Bench consisting of three judges will next week hear a host of these applications which has been consolidated in an attempt to find a solution. These will include both applications from desperate lawyers, but also from the fund itself.
While the lawyers want payment for their clients and their legal costs, the fund on the other hand, wants a 180-day extension period in which to pay these claims.
Then there is also the pending application to have the fund liquidated and another to overturn the recent permanent appointment of Letsoalo.
While I am by far no legal expert, I’m not so sure whether calling for the liquidation of the RAF – if that is even possible – is the answer.
But I do think that the latest route, taken by several claimants waiting for their money, and assisted by their lawyer Stephan Spruyt, is a sensible approach.
They are now calling on the government to urgently become involved and to take responsibility in a bid to avoid the RAF’s total collapse.
Spruyt and his clients will, among others things, ask that the ministers of transport and finance file reports every three months with the court, setting out how they plan to ensure that claims will be paid out.
They will also ask that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula must as soon as possible present a copy of the RAF’s annual report before Parliament. The court will also be asked to compel Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to supply the court with a report setting out how National Treasury plans to ensure there is always enough money in the national revenue fund to pay the RAF so it can in turn pay the claimants.
While the RAF acknowledges its dire financial position, its stance seems to be that of stalling payments until it’s on its feet again and that this will alleviate the problems.
There is no miracle, short-term solution. But calling for government intervention seems to me to be a start.