By Zelda Venter
Pretoria – Several hundreds of Road Accident Fund cases, which have been enrolled in courts from this week onwards, will not be able to proceed as the RAF is not declared an essential service which is allowed to operate under level four of the lockdown regulations.
This, despite the Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims ( APRAV) calling on the government to declare the RAF as an essential service during this time.
Several lawyers who deal with RAF matters have expressed their dismay, as they said they have been waiting for trial dates for months and in some cases for more than a year.
One lawyer, who does not want to be named, said he has at least three clients who are paraplegics and others who have suffered severe brain damage in car accidents. “These cases have been on the roll during this time, now it has to be postponed to who knows when. They have been injured more than five years ago. What am I now going to tell them”
Tens of thousands of victims of car crashes are meanwhile awaiting payment from the RAF following earlier court orders or settlements.
Many of these people are left out of pocket – especially during this economic crisis – and they depend on their RAF payout, the lawyer said.
APRAV earlier sent a letter to the Minister of Cooperate Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Minister for Transport, Fikile Mbalula in which they called for some of the activities of the RAF to be declared as an essential service.
APRAV, a human rights organisation, said while it supported the lockdown in light of Covid-19, scores of car crash victims are anxiously awaiting payment of their claims and many depend on it as a lifeline during the Covid-19 crisis.
The RAF, in a recent letter to all the attorneys who were anxiously awaiting for their trials to proceed from this week onwards, confirmed that the fund is not an essential service and that trials will thus have to be postponed.
It said that its offices thus remained closed under the level four lockdown. The RAF’s Chief Operations Officer, Lindelwa Xingwana-Jabavu, stated in the letter that in any way, the RAF’s operations remain paper-based. As all the case files are at their office, they can not access it.
Consequently, she said, the RAF is not in the position to conduct any assessment of claims to give instructions to its attorneys. Since the RAF’s services do not fall under the category of those permitted to resume operations, any movement from officials to their offices to attend to trial matters is not permitted.
Xingwana-Jabavu said that just in their Menlyn office alone, around 168 employers are required to attend to trial matters. She said she is intending issuing permits to a limited number of employees to fetch case files from the offices of attorneys to try and settle cases where possible. But she said the number of officials who will be operating will not be enough to deal with trials around the country. The RAF is, however, exploring possibilities of conducting mediation on virtual platforms, she said.
Xingwana-Jabavu added that the RAF intended to contact all plaintiff attorneys after the lockdown or when the fund is permitted to operate again to mediate or to make arrangements for re-enrollment.