By Zelda Venter – Pretoria News
Pretoria – The Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims (APRAV) has called on the government to declare the Road Accident Fund (RAF) an essential service during the lockdown period.
Tens of thousands of victims of car crashes have been awaiting payment from the RAF, following court orders or settlements.
Many of these people are left out of pocket – especially during this economic crisis – and they depend heavily on their RAF payout. The fund said, in court papers issued in December, it owed the public R17 billion at that stage. It was also said the average amount which is settled and not paid to claimants each month is R4.3bn.
The association has meanwhile sent a letter to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Minister for Transport Fikile Mbalula in which it substantiated why some of the activities of the RAF should be declared essential services.
The human rights organisation said while it supported the lockdown, scores of car crash victims were anxiously awaiting payment.
Many are now unable to work and earn a living, either because of their injuries or because their only breadwinner has died as a result of an accident. Others are simply battling to make ends meet during this time.
Pieter de Bruyn, chairperson of organisation, said the majority of claimants were from rural and mostly disadvantaged areas, with very little support mechanisms to sustain them while awaiting the finalisation of their claims.
“There are probably 10 000 claimants simply waiting for the RAF to process payment of their already finalised and agreed claim. Lockdown makes finalisation of payments impossible,” he said.
According to De Bruyn, thousands more may qualify for interim payment, while others only need their medical-legal evaluations to be finalised to be able to receive payment.
He also pointed out that some claims against the RAF may lapse during the lockdown, which could cost the fund (mostly the taxpayer) billions in addition to legal fees if the courts later have to decide on condonation to proceed with the claims.
De Bruyn said a partial functioning of the RAF during this time to execute some essential services such as the processing of claims would enable thousands of households to survive and provide them with the money they are entitled to and critically need.
He called on government to allow for the partial functioning of the RAF to process these claims and to establish which other claims can be settled.
A bitter legal battle between the RAF and several attorneys, which had been on its panel to defend matters on behalf of the fund, would meanwhile resume in the North Gauteng High Court next month.
The RAF said it was anxious to obtain the case files which were with the lawyers which previously acted on the fund’s behalf, as it wanted to try and settle most of the matters. The lawyers, on the other hand, are fighting a fierce battle to remain on the panel as for most of them their RAF work and subsequently fees are their livelihoods.
They are appealing a judgment in which they were ordered to hand back the files, while they are also planning on reviewing the decision by the RAF to no longer make use of a panel of lawyers.RAF said the billions it spent on legal fees could go towards paying the public.
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