Will the new scheme fix the broken one?

“It’s very disruptive to be working, and then the sheriff of the court arrives to take your chair, leaving you sitting on a dustbin to finish your work.”

This is what RAF employees in the more than 100 offices nationwide have experienced, according to Phumi Dhlomo, the Road Accident Fund’s (RAF’s) chief marketing officer.

It can take more than 120 days to pay out a claim, by which time an inevitably angry defendant will have approached the court to seize the fund’s moveable assets, Dhlomo said.

To avoid losing furniture, the RAF now leases it.

According to the Public Finance and Management Act, a claim should only take 30 days to process. But a backlog of claims and not enough funds to pay them out result in delays.


The RAF is compulsory insurance providing social security for victims of a road accident.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, the RAF admitted that its “legislative framework has resulted in it being insolvent since 1981”.

The Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) is intended to replace the current system administered by the RAF, and cut long and costly litigation, high administrative costs and a prolonged claims process.

One of the big changes the RABS proposes is that “fault will not be considered on the part of the claimant or other persons involved” in a vehicle accident. The “no-fault” system is meant to “create a new era of socioeconomic balance” and cut down the negative consequences felt by the family of the driver at fault.

Because there will be no need to find fault, individuals could submit claims without having to seek legal help. Under the current RAF system, claimants need to prove a third party’s negligence before they can be compensated by the fund.

“It is expected that the role of attorneys in the new scheme will be limited considering the removal of the requirement to prove fault and due to the fact that benefits are defined,” the RAF said in a statement on Tuesday.

More than R25-billion was paid to claimants last year while lawyers acting for the RAF and claimants earned about R8-billion.

READ MORE: Haemorrhaging RAF staggers along

“Law firms benefit from RAF,” Schussler said, “And you can’t take lawyers out of the system, but you can place a cap on what lawyers can be paid.”

Lawyers, however, believe their services are already capped. “The vast majority of claimants, and especially poor or unemployed road accident victims, are represented by attorneys via the provisions of the Contingency Fee Act 66 of 1997, which is closely regulated by the courts and the profession,” said Jacqui Sohn, the chairperson of the personal injury committee of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA).

“In terms of this Act, legal fees are both limited and capped ensuring that the claimant receives a fair proportion of the settlement or award.”

The Act also allows the claimant to challenge the fee charged, Sohn said.

The LSSA rejected the notion that lawyers benefited unduly from the RAF; they provide a valuable service by helping the claimant to understand a complicated system.

“An attorney representing a road accident victim has a professional duty to ensure the most just and fair outcome for the client,” Sohn said.

He added that the no-fault clause was a big issue. The LSSA had proposed a hybrid scheme for the RABS Act, in which claimants could opt in or out of the no-fault policy.

“The LSSA believes that the common-law right of an injured party to sue the negligent party for the balance of her/his loss not covered by the scheme must be retained,” Sohn said.

Another proposed change would be that claimants be paid monthly instalments rather than a lump sum.

“The RAF payout has traditionally had a lotto effect,” RAF acting chief executive officer Lindelwa Jabavu said, “and is not used for what it is meant for, which leads to claimants coming back to claim again from the RAF or reaching out to the South Africa Social Security Agency.” 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

Pandemic hobbles learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

More top stories

Zuma, Zondo play the waiting game

The former president says he will talk once the courts have ruled, but the head of the state capture inquiry appears resigned to letting the clock run out as the commission's deadline nears

Disinformation harms health and democracy

Conspiracy theorists abuse emotive topics to suck the air out of legitimate debate and further their own sinister agendas

Uganda: ‘I have never seen this much tear-gas in an...

Counting was slow across Uganda as a result of the internet shutdown, which affected some of the biometric machines used to validate voter registrations.

No way out for Thales in arms deal case, court...

The arms manufacturer has argued that there was no evidence to show that it was aware of hundreds of indirect payments to Jacob Zuma, but the court was not convinced.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…