South Africa, Pretoria – Lawyers from across the country have joined the full bench of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria’s application in which the judges are asked to find a solution to the multitude of problems facing the RAF.
The case started yesterday and will continue in February during which Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni and his Transport counterpart Fikile Mbalula are also called on to explain how they plan on turning the alleged bankrupt RAF around.
RAF chief executive Collins Letsoalo wants the court to come to its rescue and bar sheriffs from attaching its assets in a bid to enforce payments.
He is asking for a 180-day reprieve in which to pay successful claims.
The 17 respondents, mostly law firms and sheriffs, are fighting for the right of the public who had issued successful claims against the fund, to be paid within a reasonable time.
One of the points made by the legal eagles fighting on behalf of their clients is that since April – following the strict Covid-19 lockdown regulations – only a fraction of the weekly RAF trials were allocated to judges to finalise.
This resulted in a multitude of trials that were postponed from the end of next year to 2022 – which were the only available court dates due to congested rolls.
The lawyers are arguing that this alone has saved the RAF a lot of money and that there is no reason to grant the fund a reprieve in paying out claims.
They argued on another point that the government should come to the rescue and bail the RAF out, the same way it aided the embattled Eskom and SAA state entities.
The judges were told that the government – especially the two ministers – urgently had to come aboard to avoid the RAF from total collapse.
In this regard, several claimants who have been waiting for months – and some for years – to be paid are asking the court to force the government to come up with a plan.
They want the court to force the fund to 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 Mbalula must as soon as possible present a copy of the RAF’s annual report before Parliament, and the auditor-general must within three months audit the financial statements and supply the court with a copy.
The court will meanwhile also be asked to compel Mboweni to supply the court with a report setting out how the National Treasury plans to ensure that there is always enough money in the national revenue fund to pay the RAF, to in turn pay claimants.
Sheriffs across the country have over the months attached the property of the fund following non-payments.
But the RAF said this is no solution, as they cannot process claims if they do not have the equipment to do so.
Some law firms have also attached the bank accounts of the RAF in a bid to ensure payment to their clients.
There are also allegations that the fund is not playing open cards regarding their financial situation and that they are not divulging all their bank accounts.
The RAF in turn said the issue was that it incurred a shortfall of about R7bn over the past few months and that Covid-19 exasperated things.