Thousands sign petition to protest RAF Bill

More than 30 000 South Africans have signed a petition on a website called Stop the Bill against a draft law to reform the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

The petition is addressed to President Thabo Mbeki and Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe.

Hein Kaiser, one of the organisers of the petition, says “compensation is now limited and the RAF is taking away compensation for people with minor injuries. But when I am a manual labourer and I break my arm or lose my fingers, I won’t be able to go on with my job. To me, that is a serious injury.”

In 2004 and earlier this year, the RAF had to deal with failure to comply with legislation and additional mismanagement and poor governance.

Kaiser says “this [new Bill] is a way of liquidating their [the RAF’s] mismanagement for many years, but they are taking it away from the benefit of the people. Without their mismanagement, this problem would never be here.

“We want to have one million signatories; already we have more than 25 000 [on Thursday]. This must be a clear sign to Jeff Radebe and President Mbeki. There are so many people opposed to the Bill.”

The RAF Amendment Bill states that it wants to “firstly […] provide for a more equitable, fair and transparent compensation system; and secondly to improve the governance and financial position” of the fund.

“I think it is a little too late for a petition to start,” says Marissa du Toit, manager of policy advocacy and coordination at the national Department of Transport, “because it took us two years to pass this Bill.

“We had a lot of discussions in Parliament and we maybe had 10 different drafts of the Bill. Those who are impacted are able to start a website. The people who are happy are not going to start a website saying how happy they are with the Bill.”

A research document from the Johannesburg Attorneys’ Association, one of the parties supporting the online petition, says the RAF Amendment Bill “seeks to exclude payment of general damages, and claims for ‘serious injury’ will be limited to a maximum of R100 000 for pain and suffering — even if you were to lose both arms and legs as well as no more than R160 000 per annum loss of income [and] you are never able to work again. These amounts are standard even if you earned more than R160 000 per annum.”

“Yes, it [the compensation] is limited,” says Du Toit. “But the lower-income people are better off. Ninety-nine percent of the people that apply to the RAF for loss of income are paid [yearly salaries of] under R160 000. So, it is 1% of our current claimants of the working population in the formal sector that will be affected.

“We are spending more money on people with a higher income than someone who washes 10 cars a day but can’t prove that. This system is now more equitable.”

Michael de Broglio, from the Johannesburg Attorneys’ Association, says in the association’s research document: “If you earn R360 000 per annum and a drunken CEO of a multinational corporation causes an accident which leaves you permanently disabled and unable to work, the RAF will potentially remunerate you for the maximum amount per year of R160 000. You will no longer be able to sue the drunk CEO for the balance of R200 000 to maintain your standard of living.

“So, even now the fund has limited your compensation, it further proposes that your common-law right to sue the negligent party for the balance will also be removed. And, individuals who earn more than R160 000 per annum will need to take out personal-income replacement insurance.”

Du Toit said: “If you earn more than R160 000, we can provide you with the basics. If you want more, you need to take out personal insurance.”

Sarita Cronje, media spokesperson for the RAF, would not comment because the fund is managed by the Department of Transport.

The provisional date for the Bill to be finalised in the National Assembly is November 16.

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