South Africa, Pretoria – The Road Accident Fund (RAF) is so dysfunctional that a judge called for it to be urgently liquidated. Seven claimants who urgently need the money and have been awaiting payment of their claims for up to a year and more, will, with the help of their lawyer, approach the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to ensure the government’s intervention.
They will, through lawyer Stephan Spruyt, ask that the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula and his Finance colleague Tito Mboweni file reports every three months with the court, setting out how they plan to ensure that claims are paid out to those claimants who have already obtained court orders to be compensated following road accidents.
They will also ask that Mbalula as soon as possible present a copy of the RAF’s annual report before Parliament. In addition, the auditor-general must within three months audit the RAF’s annual financial statements and supply the court with a copy.
The court will also be asked to compel Mboweni to supply the court with a report setting out how National Treasury plans to ensure that there is always enough money in the national revenue fund to pay the RAF, to in turn pay the claimants.
There has been a plethora of litigation between law firms and the RAF since the start of this year, as well as applications brought by the fund itself to try to buy time in which to pay claims.
Spruyt, in the latest urgent application, said enough was enough and the government’s intervention was urgent and vital to ensure the constitutional rights of South Africans.
He said it was high time that the State fulfilled its duties and stepped in.
He said a decade ago, the Constitutional Court made it clear that urgent steps had to be taken to make the RAF sustainable. While some claimants in the past struggled to obtain payment, things worsened since the start of this year, with erratic payments or no payments at all. The RAF’s excuse was that it was simply out of pocket.
Spruyt said payments were only made in some instances when the RAF’s assets were attached as the last resort or only a selected few law firms would receive payments.
Since August, the RAF, through court applications, tried to legitimise its non-payments and asked for a 180-day grace period in which to pay claims. Spruyt said this was while many of his clients were cash-strapped and entirely dependent on the RAF payments due to them.
Many are unable to work due to the injuries they sustained during vehicle accidents, and cannot put food on the table and take care of their families.
Spruyt questioned the RAF’s ongoing litigation – at the taxpayers’ cost – while its outstanding liabilities stood at R14.9 million in March already.
According to him, it is now time to turn the attention to “the lack of response” by the national executive that is responsible for the administration of the fund – especially the transport ministry. “In all that has transpired, the transport minister is ominously silent … he evidently leaves the RAF to its own limited devices and means,” Spruyt said that showed a disregard for the accident victims who were desperate to receive their compensation. He said there was no possibility of an improvement to the RAF’s finances. He said the only solution to this impasse was for government to take responsibility in this regard.