The RABS bill has long been suggested as an alternative to the Road Accident Fund, but has faced a great deal of scrutiny over several years.
The controversially proposed Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) Bill that was set before parliament nearly three years ago has been rejected on Wednesday 19 August, providing relief for proponents of the existing Road Accident Fund (RAF) and personal injury attorneys, who were set to be cut out of claims processes by the proposed law.
The law sought to remedy a plethora of issues currently afflicting the RAF – including drawn out claims processes, backlogged court rolls, and contentious earnings by legal practitioners – but was widely criticised for being “anti-poor” and for being designed on a controversial “no-fault premise”.
DA WELCOME SCRAPPING OF PROPOSED RABS BILL
The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomed the decision taken today by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport, with the opposition party having consistently acted to see it removed from the parliamentary agenda.
“Our submissions were overwhelmingly supported by the Committee. We thank our colleagues across the political divide who supported the DA in opposing and preventing the continuation of this disastrous bill,” said DA Shadow Minster for Transport, Chris Hunslinger.
“The DA is of the view that the RABS Bill is anti-poor, unaffordable and poses major stumbling blocks for road accident victims. Many South Africans agreed with the DA’s sentiments as evidenced by the bill failing to garner adequate public participation support.”
According to the DA, the RABS Bill made the following problematic proposals:
- Anyone claiming from RABS would not require to prove if a vehicle crash was caused by any party involved in that crash;
- Payments for loss of income will no longer be made in lump sums, but paid out monthly at a cap;
- Claims must be paid through an administrator and not a private attorney;
- Claimants would have to cover the costs of obtaining medical and police reports;
- Payments would cease after 15 years, regardless of whether a victim was fully rehabilitated; and
- Claims can only be submitted electronically.
On the flip side, the African National Congress (ANC) had seen the Bill as a means to remedy some of the problems with the current system, specifically by replacing the “RABS will replace the fault-based system, which former Transport minister Blade Nzimande said “often results in extended and costly administration”.
One of the issues cited with the Bill was the notion that claims for injuries sustained in road accidents would have to be made directly through the fund, without the assistance of common law practitioners such as personal injury lawyers.
The ANC maintained that such practitioners delayed the process and claimed unnecessary percentages of the eventual settlements, with up to 25% able to be allocated to claimant’s council.
‘RABS BILL WOULD HAVE TO RUN CONCURRENTLY WITH RAF’
The RABS Bill was also criticised by financial experts, who concluded that for the bill to operate, it would need to run concurrently with the existing RAF framework, until such time as outstanding claims within the RAF were resolved and the fund could be finally dissolved.
“Current RAF claimants would have to be financed parallel to the RABS Bill which will have implications on the fuel levy,” said Hunslinger. “Neither the fiscus nor South African consumers would have been able to afford two road crash compensation streams.”
“While the RAF system is rife with problems, the RABS Bill is simply not an acceptable alternative.”
APRAV THRILLED WITH PARLIAMENTARY MEMBER’S DECISION
The Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims (APRAV) have been one of the driving forces behind ensuring that the bill does not come into effect.
They believe that in order for the personal injury attorneys and other members of their association to work towards fixing the multitude of problems in the RAF, the RABS bill needed to be kicked to the curb.
“APRAV wants to congratulate the Portfolio Committee on Transport (PCoT) for demonstrating clear and constructive leadership in a time of turmoil and unprecedented pressure on the public of South Africa (and even more so for any road crash victim!),” they said in a statement on Wednesday.
“On the day, thorough analyses, research, facts and the Constitution carried the day.”
“The PCoT also agreed that the way forward is to consider amendments to the RAF Act and Regulations, as needed,” he said.
‘IT’S TIME TO HELP RAF SURVIVE’ – APRAV
They said that they are now enabled to work towards fixing the RAF and rolling out several plans that they have devised in spite of RAF offices having been closed for the most part during the nationwide lockdown.
“The need for the RAF to sensibly transform for the benefit of road crash victims is widely publicised and accepted by all key stakeholders. We now all have to get involved in a well-coordinated, focussed and practical manner.”
“The need to support the RAF and especially the road crash victims is too big to wait any longer. Six national Task Teams are focussing on all aspects of the RAF’s functioning. This is a very constructive initiative to align with the RAF leadership to all work together to help the RAF survive and become a centre of excellence.”