RABS Bill dismissed: ‘Now we can get to work on fixing RAF’

thesouthafrican.com

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.”

Lawyers concerned about the Road Accident Fund

SAFM | THE TALKING POINT

Lawyers around the country are raising their frustration about the plight of crash victims trying to claim for the Road Accident Fund. The lockdown is said to have made things worse. Let’s speak now to a lawyer to get an understanding of the challenges faced by the victims also how this affecting them directly….
Guest: Kirstie Haslam – Partner at DSC Attorneys

Click to listen here.

 

Wheels turn for RAF

Wheels turn for RAF as it focuses on paying victims

Fund’s new operating model aims to finalise claims within 120 days, not four to five years

Cape Argus 3 Aug 2020 GEORGINA CROUTH & DAVID RITCHIE

THE EFFORTS of the Road Accident Fund (RAF) to focus on paying accident victims are proving fruitful, despite failure to have it declared an essential service during the lockdown.

The RAF has been plagued by inefficiencies for years to the detriment of crash victims and their dependants.

The fund, which has a shortfall of more than R17 billion, has admitted to having neglected its primary mandate to settle and investigate claims, by focusing on unnecessary and costly legal battles.

In February, acting chief executive Collins Letsoalo declined to renew contracts for the fund’s panel of attorneys and requested that they hand over all unfinalised case files.

The 85 aggrieved attorneys took the matter to the high court in March, where Judge Norman Davis ruled that they hand over the RAF files.

Judge Davis said the lawyers had built their practices around RAF work and concerns for the public, but “in the end it still appears to be about the retention of their lucrative practices”.

On appeal, Judge Wendy Hughes ordered that the RAF must retain the panel for at least another next six months.

The technically insolvent fund is the government’s second-largest contingent liability after Eskom, with about R17bn owed to claimants. In the past year, lawyers earned more than R10.6bn from the RAF.

Letsoalo has predicted a R15bn loss for this financial year, which has been exacerbated by the impact of the lockdown on revenue from the fuel levy.

He said the RAF has been going to court for most of its cases, which were ultimately settled on the steps of the court.

The new operating model is focused on finalising claims within 120 days, not four to five years, as it has in the past. By focusing on handling cases in-house, rather than utilising the services of private law firms, Letsoalo hopes to reduce the fund’s legal costs by 70 percent in the next three years.

Pieter de Bruyn from the Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims (APRAV) told eNCA on Friday that a few hundred thousand claimants have waited years for their cases to be resolved; the lockdown had added about 20 000 claimants to the queue for compensation.

“On the positive side, three important constructive happenings took place in 2020: Mosebenzi Zwane, from the portfolio committee on transport, instructed the fund’s leadership to fix the RAF. Although under a lot of criticism, they responded to the criticism, while perhaps not managing the stakeholders (lawyers) well, and for the first time in 10 years, issued a statement that the victim of a crash should be the primary focus.”

He said that the industry is also responding to the portfolio committee and the RAF leadership and formed six national task teams to examine the fund’s functioning ensure it focuses on crash victims, that the public’s money from the fuel levy is better spent and that victims’ constitutional rights are protected.

Gert Nel, a Pretoria-based attorney who has been vocal about inefficiencies at the RAF and its previous leadership’s proposed Road Accident Fund Benefit Scheme, said he was encouraged by the new strategic plan.

He said RAF has had some “challenges”, including the lockdown, but it was making progress. “They are settling matters, paying victims, accepting new claims, building and developing their new strategy, and engaging with plaintiff attorneys on a regular basis.”

Nel said the fund was even engaging with attorneys on arranging structured payments to address the backlog due to the lockdown. “It is not a perfect system, but they are doing very well under these trying circumstances,” he said.

“We are in the fortunate position to help shape the future of the RAF and should at least give them a chance, as it is the first time in as many years that the RAF are actively doing something to better the fund and address the plight of the victims head-on.”

Wheels turn for RAF

Covid-19 has put brakes on RAF claims

By Kristie Haslam

Lawyers are concerned about the plight of road crash victims who, before lockdown, faced insurmountable challenges with their claims, compounded by delays as a result of the closure of Road Accident Fund offices.

Many claimants battle to get lawful compensation because of the RAF’s poor financial management, unsafe roads and drivers causing out-of-control road crash volumes. Covid-19 and its consequences have created the perfect storm for road users’ constitutional rights not to be honoured.

The RAF ground to a halt during lockdown and is struggling to get back to business. The RAF was incomprehensibly not declared an essential service under levels 5 and 4. Hundreds of court cases could not proceed and victims of road accidents became victims of the state.

Before the pandemic, the RAF was plagued by many internal issues, cash flow problems and a difficulties in the high court. Victims and their families are bearing the brunt of it all.

The Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims (APRAV) wrote two letters to ministers Fikile Mbalula and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, on April 15 and May 8, requesting RAF services be declared essential. They never replied.

The lack of care went against the constitutional rights of thousands of claimants who have been waiting years for compensation.

The APRAV started an online petition and sent more than 15 000 signatures to Mbalula. RAF employees have stayed home and earned their salaries while desperate claimants and caretakers waited for payments and answers.

The RAF announced that cases would be postponed, because its operations remained paper-based and case files could not be accessed. There was neither compassion nor attempts to look into alternatives.

The government created new rules and bent existing ones to get money to the suffering public in almost any legal means possible. Why were road crash victims’ constitutional rights ignored?

The APRAV commends the RAF for progressing settlements in the Gauteng North (Pretoria), Gauteng South (Johannesburg) and Cape Town high courts. Unfortunately, many other provincial divisions postponed all RAF-related matters.

The RAF is mostly inaccessible to the public and claimants are not getting answers. There is no clarity on what services are being rendered, what the plan is to catch up with the lockdown backlog and how queries will be dealt with. The RAF is a multibillion rand a month agency, impacting the lives of thousands of road users. The questions cannot be left unanswered.

Of further concern is the feedback in the portfolio committee on transport’s meeting on June 2. It was reported that there was a shortfall on the fuel levy, due to less fuel consumption during the lockdown. This should not become the mother of all excuses. It makes it even more critical that clear plans should be communicated on how the shortfall will be managed and mitigated. The silence is deafening.

The RAF supposedly opened on June 1, but it is unclear what services its is providing.

An added significant concern is the plight of the claimants whom the RAF solicited to claim directly, without the aid of legal representation; one can only imagine their uncertainty and anxiety.

The RAF needs to resume operations and attend to claimant matters as soon as possible.

Haslam is a practising attorney.

Streamlined service on RAF

Streamlined service on RAF, lawyers’ agenda

ZELDA VENTER – 29 Jun 2020
Pretoria News

IN the wake of a legal battle between 103 law firms whose contracts as in-house attorneys for the Road Accident Fund (RAF) the entity is trying to terminate, it is also trying to find a way to streamline its business, while saving costs.

The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, recently ruled on various applications in which the attorneys tried to overturn the decision by the fund to no longer use an in-house panel to act on its behalf against the public.

In the latest judgment, Judge Wendy Hughes ordered that the RAF retain the services of its panel of attorneys for at least the next six months – to safeguard the rights of those embroiled in legal proceedings against the RAF.

The RAF subsequently unsuccessfully applied for leave to appeal against this judgment. It stated at least 19 grounds on which it felt leave to appeal should be granted, but Judge Hughes turned it down.

Subsequent to this, most if not all plaintiff attorneys (those appearing for the public against the fund) based in Gauteng recently received an invitation from the RAF to attend a webinar meeting to discuss its new business model. The attorneys described this as a historical event as it was the first time in recent history that RAF management, spearheaded by acting chief executive Collins Letsoalo, invited them to share thoughts and strategic plans.

The new strategy involves a step-by-step introduction of measures to limit costs and improve efficiency and service delivery to road accident victims.

The attorneys said the first step in ensuring the success of the RAF’s new direction was aimed at tearing down the “adversarial” divide between plaintiff attorneys and the RAF and to rather work towards a common goal – being to serve the public.

The main reason voiced by the RAF in its bid to no longer use the in-house panel to defend cases against it by the public was to save the millions it had to pay in legal fees. It is said that only about 1% of all defended RAF matters had actually gone on trial.

The RAF is of the opinion that where possible it should rather settle claims to save costs.

This new strategy will see the RAF recruiting personnel who would focus on expediting and finalising the claims backlog on a three-year project that would allow current staff to focus on newly lodged claims in an effort to try to settle them within 120 days.

The RAF is also considering the introduction of a single panel of experts that would curtail the unnecessary duplication of medico legal and related expenses.

The plaintiff attorneys also engaged the RAF’s initiative to “block-settle” matters – even defended matters capable of being settled. Details were also exchanged with the attorneys about the fact that the RAF is not fully functional under the lockdown regulations.

Letsoalo told the attorneys that the RAF was engaging Treasury in an effort to address its financial demands – also the impact of the lack of fuel levy revenue due to the impact of Covid-19.

The RAF is also considering changing certain provisions of the legislation to make it more efficient and possibly more sustainable.

The attorneys were requested to assist the RAF as far as possible in the transition process and to make suggestions that could optimise and streamline the new approach to litigation and the claim process.

Attorney Gert Nel of Gert Nel Incorporated said the RAF’s new direction did not mean that the plaintiff would lose any existing rights to approach the court for relief. “It does, however, offer the unique opportunity to lawyers to contribute to a more efficient and sustainable fund that could quite possibly render the complete overhaul of the compensation system, as envisaged by the highly-criticised Road Accident Benefit Scheme, obsolete.”

Streamlined service on RAF

Road Accident Fund on right road under level 4 lockdown

By Zelda Venter

Pretoria – Although the Road Accident Fund (RAF) has not yet been declared an essential service under lockdown Level 4, it is making efforts to assist plaintiffs by settling matters enrolled during this time.

Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo and Acting Deputy Judge President Sulet Potterill are accommodating these matters on the roll.

Hundreds of accident victims have waited for a long time – some even for years – to have their cases finalised.

Many count on this money, especially at this time, to survive.

It is expected that the RAF will be able to fully function under level 3.

After a virtual meeting between the judge president, RAF chief executive Collins Letsoalo and some members of the Pretoria Bar Council, advocate Don Williams SC issued a report regarding the way forward with trials at this stage, including the option of mediation.

The discussion took place in the context of trial limitations caused by the lockdown as well as the RAF’s decision not to appoint a panel of attorneys from June 1.

The application before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to review and set aside the decision by the RAF not to renew the contracts of the panel attorneys has been concluded.

Judgment in this regard is expected during the last week of this month.

Another application, this time by the RAF to force the panel of attorneys to hand over the RAF files in their possession, was meanwhile struck from the roll because of a lack of urgency.

Regarding the issue of RAF trials during lockdown, it was decided that it would be “business as usual” as far as the parties could manage it with the restrictions under level 4.

It was decided that some of these trials would go ahead, provided they had been uploaded on to CaseLines, which is the electronic system on which all documents are now filed.

According to Williams, Letsoalo gave the go-ahead that RAF staff may directly make offers to the plaintiff attorneys to offer possible settlements.

Williams commented in his report that it remained to be seen how cases would proceed from June 1 if there were no panel attorneys acting for the fund on board.

It was further contained in the report that Letsoalo wanted to deal with some of the matters by way of mediation, to save costs.

This was not on the cards yet, as the parties were still trying to pave the way forward as to who should preside over the mediations.

It was also said that there was no obligation on the victims to agree to mediation.

While there is still no agreement between the RAF and the legal fraternity as to who should be appointed as mediators, the society of advocates are of the view that retired judges and retired advocates and attorneys with experience in RAF matters, should take on this task.

The Pretoria Bar recommended a committee be established to assess who should be appointed. One of its advocates, Linda Retief, has been engaging with the South African Law Reform Commission to develop a generic Mediation Act, which will cater for mediation panels.

The bar recommended that Retief form a committee to take the matter of RAF mediation forward promptly.

Williams said the issue of mediation raised transformation opportunities and suggested that Advocates for Transformation should give their speedy input to the proposed committee.

Williams said the plaintiff attorneys (those acting for the victims) would demand an independent regime acceptable to them.

“Only then will they grant the RAF acting chief executive his wish – speedy and earlier resolution of matters. It remains to be seen whether there will indeed be a saving of costs,” he said.

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL’s  #Coronavirus trend page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za

Pretoria News

Streamlined service on RAF

Thousands of Road Accident Fund cases on hold

By Zelda Venter

Pretoria – Several hundreds of Road Accident Fund cases, which have been enrolled in courts from this week onwards, will not be able to proceed as the RAF is not declared an essential service which is allowed to operate under level four of the lockdown regulations.

This, despite the Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims ( APRAV) calling on the government to declare the RAF as an essential service during this time.

Several lawyers who deal with RAF matters have expressed their dismay, as they said they have been waiting for trial dates for months and in some cases for more than a year.

One lawyer, who does not want to be named, said he has at least three clients who are paraplegics and others who have suffered severe brain damage in car accidents. “These cases have been on the roll during this time, now it has to be postponed to who knows when. They have been injured more than five years ago. What am I now going to tell them”

Tens of thousands of victims of car crashes are meanwhile awaiting payment from the RAF following earlier court orders or settlements.

Many of these people are left out of pocket – especially during this economic crisis – and they depend on their RAF payout, the lawyer said.

APRAV earlier sent a letter to the Minister of Cooperate Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Minister for Transport, Fikile Mbalula in which they called for some of the activities of the RAF to be declared as an essential service.

APRAV, a human rights organisation, said while it supported the lockdown in light of Covid-19, scores of car crash victims are anxiously awaiting payment of their claims and many depend on it as a lifeline during the Covid-19 crisis.

The RAF, in a recent letter to all the attorneys who were anxiously awaiting for their trials to proceed from this week onwards, confirmed that the fund is not an essential service and that trials will thus have to be postponed.

It said that its offices thus remained closed under the level four lockdown. The RAF’s Chief Operations Officer, Lindelwa Xingwana-Jabavu, stated in the letter that in any way, the RAF’s operations remain paper-based. As all the case files are at their office, they can not access it.

Consequently, she said, the RAF is not in the position to conduct any assessment of claims to give instructions to its attorneys. Since the RAF’s services do not fall under the category of those permitted to resume operations, any movement from officials to their offices to attend to trial matters is not permitted.

Xingwana-Jabavu said that just in their Menlyn office alone, around 168 employers are required to attend to trial matters. She said she is intending issuing permits to a limited number of employees to fetch case files from the offices of attorneys to try and settle cases where possible. But she said the number of officials who will be operating will not be enough to deal with trials around the country. The RAF is, however, exploring possibilities of conducting mediation on virtual platforms, she said.

Xingwana-Jabavu added that the RAF intended to contact all plaintiff attorneys after the lockdown or when the fund is permitted to operate again to mediate or to make arrangements for re-enrollment.

Pretoria News

Call for Road Accident Fund to be declared essential service during lockdown

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.

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL’s #Coronavirus trend page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za

Declare Road Accident Fund an essential service

Victim’s rights group: ‘Declare Road Accident Fund an essential service’

By: Dan Meyer – The South African.

The Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims (APRAV) have sent a letter to government urging them to allow the Road Accident Fund (RAF) to operate during the lockdown as an essential service.

The letter, delivered to Minister of Cooperate Governance & Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, requests that the RAF, responsible for the compensation of thousands of road accident victims, be declared an essential service in light of its efforts to ensure the human dignity and financial wellbeing of clients.

Seeking essential services permit

Peter de Bruyn, chairperson of APRAV, has said that his organisation completely respects the endeavours of government to stem the spread of the global pandemic we are currently facing, but has asked for a certain amount of relief in order to fulfil the needs of his clients who are in desperate need.

“We are not requesting full opening [ of courts], just that payments in the system proceed,” he told The South African on Friday 17 April

“Matters that have been approved, as well as matters sitting with attorneys, should be able to be processed so that the clients can be compensated fairly.”

In his letter, he said that claimants, who are already deprived of income due to injuries incurred in their accidents, are now more vulnerable than ever.

“Our request is in the context that of thousands of RAF claimants deprived of any income (a significant portion of claimants is part of the Gig Economy) or are disabled to do any work and are waiting for their compensation from the RAF.”

“We fully acknowledge that safeguarding the health of all South Africans is now the primary objective and that ‘flattening the curve’ will only be achieved via ‘the lockdown’.”

Backlog still needs clearing

De Bruyn said hat there are currently over 10 000 cases that need to be urgently addressed, and said that they are being severely disadvantaged by the RAF not holding an essential service status.

The RAF has long been burdened by an enormous backlog of cases, with some dating back over a decade.

“A partial functioning by the RAF to execute some essential services (such as the processing of payments) will enable critically needed income to which tens of thousands of South African households are rightfully entitled.”

“All protocols for social distancing can still be observed, since this is by and large, an administrative process.”

His letter requests several privileges during the lockdown and are as follows:

  • Progress all existing required payments.
  • Progress all claims already finalised/agreed to.
  • Progress current matters capable of being settled via the block settlement programme.

“We firmly believe that the intentions of the lockdown as well as progressing very needed claim payments to thousands of members of the public, can meaningfully be balanced,” he said.

State of Disaster

COVID-19 State of Disaster & Lockdown Regulations: A summary

This blog unpacks the State of Disaster regulations and lockdown directives, focusing on the ones most likely to affect you, family, friends and the business or non-profit organisation you work for

There have been many changes to the State of Disaster regulations since they were gazetted on 18 March. However, Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma did say in her media briefing on the regulations that, ‘as the situation evolves’, more regulations and ministerial directives might become necessary. The lockdown has since prompted a flurry of ‘directions’ from various Cabinet members on very specific matters.

They build on and fine tune the basic lockdown regulations (amended three times), which are encapsulated below.

Facilities providing care for the vulnerable

Issued on 30 March, a directive from Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu spells out the procedures to be followed and protocols observed not only by her department but also by the non-profit, faith-based and community-based organisations involved in running facilities for the vulnerable. It focuses on measures aimed at enforcing social distancing – among other things by prohibiting visits and the release of facility residents. Organisations most likely to be affected include:

 

  • substance abuse treatment centres and halfway houses
  • child and youth care centres
  • shelters for the victims of crime and violence (including gender-based violence)
  • old age homes and frail care facilities
  • residential facilities for persons with disabilities
  • community- and home-based respite care facilities
  • ‘community nutrition development’ centres
  • services related to the ‘social relief of distress (including psychosocial support)
  • drop-in centres
  • ‘cooperatives’

While several programmes have been suspended, the National Youth Development Agency is required to ‘sponsor additional volunteers’ for unspecified nutrition programmes.

A 7 April directive amends the prohibition on moving children between ‘co-holders of parental responsibility’ during the lockdown period. Parents may now move their children between them, provided they can produce their custody court order/agreement or a certified copy.

Beginning in May, social grant and pension payment dates will be staggered to protect people with disabilities and older persons from ‘the month-end rush’.

Good news for anyone caring for a baby, infant or toddler younger than 3 years of age is that baby clothes, blankets, towels and other essential accessories are classified as ‘essential goods’.

UIF during the lockdown

The temporary unemployment relief scheme established on 26 March applies to the staff of businesses and other entities closed during the lockdown. Key features are that it is:

  • delinked from the UIF’s normal benefits
  • calculated using the income replacement sliding scale prescribed in the Act
  • capped at R17712 per month.

To assist staff temporarily laid off and unable to travel under the lockdown, employers should apply on their behalf.

The directive was amended on 8 April to confirm that:

  • no employee qualifying for temporary unemployment benefits under the scheme will receive less than the minimum monthly wage of R3500
  • no bank may refuse to release benefits held in the account of an employer or bargaining council that’s ‘in breach of its overdraft or similar contractual arrangements’.

The courts

A directive issued on the 26 March was amended (and, in fact, replaced) five days later. A media statement on the amended directive confirmed that:

  • ‘essential justice services will be available at courts only between 10:00 and 13:00 daily during the national lockdown period’
  • this also applies to the Family Advocate, the offices of the Master of the High Court and ‘criminal courts’
  • ‘family law services will only attend to urgent applications in respect of matters referred to the Family Advocate by the courts’
  • ‘applications for protection orders will still be addressed, as will enforcement orders’
  • the offices of the Master of the High Court will only attend to ‘urgent appointments’ about deceased estates and curatorship
  • ‘criminal courts’ will preside over bail hearings and first applications only
  • persons whose cases are on the court roll but not deemed urgent should ‘stay home’ and not visit ‘courthouses’ until after the lockdown
  • matters on the court roll will be rescheduled and members of the public informed of new dates for court appearances
  • audio-visual technology will be used ‘as widely as possible’ at correctional centres to deal with remand-related matters

directive on correctional facilities issued on 9 April:

  • suspended day parole for sentenced offenders unless ‘rendering essential services’
  • they are to be ‘incarcerated for the duration of the lockdown period’
  • the ‘referral of remand detainees to court for consideration of their length of detention and bail review will continue’.
  • ‘urgent’ communication between an inmate and his/her legal representative will only be conducted telephonically, resources permitting
  • sentenced offenders who are illegal foreign nationals and whose sentences expire during the lockdown are to be released into and held in ‘temporary deportation facilities’, where those to be deported will be notified of government’s intentions
  • sentenced offenders who are foreign nationals, whose sentences expire during the lockdown and who are to remain in SA will be released into Department of Home Affairs facilities ‘for further processing’

Vehicle licence

The validity of a driver’s licence, learner’s licence, motor vehicle licence disc, temporary permit, professional driving permit and roadworthy certificate will extend 30 days after the end of the lockdown. A directive confirming this was issued on 30 March.

 

Directives affecting small businesses (SMMEs)

On 6 April, a ministerial directive confirmed that:

  • corner shops, spaza shops and fruit and vegetable informal traders and langanas are classified as essential services irrespective of the nationality of the owners
  • the same applies to every small, medium or micro enterprise operating a grocery store
  • informal food traders must have a permit issued by the municipality where trading
  • where a business owner is not a South African citizen, he/she is required to hold a valid passport and visa, or an asylum seeker permit
  • minimal staffing, social distancing and sanitising/disinfecting protocols apply
  • only ‘basic necessities’ may be sold
  • nobody may ‘stay overnight’ in a grocery store

Here is the website providing information on the Covid-19 SMME debt relief finance scheme and here is the application form. Qualifying criteria do not include broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) compliance, unless you are in the tourism industry.

B-BBEE compliance is a requirement when applying for assistance from the Covid-19 tourism relief fund for SMMEs, established on 2 April by ministerial directive.

Directives affecting the healthcare sector

On 19 March, a block exemption from certain sections of the Competition Act was issued allowing ‘private healthcare providers to coordinate their actions as part of … National Department of Health efforts’ to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus. A media statement on the exemption refers to ‘the sharing of facilities and beds, medical supplies, nurses and doctors between different companies and with government’.

The list of facilities and suppliers falling under the block exemption was extended on 8 April, so it now applies to:

  • hospitals and healthcare facilities
  • medical suppliers
  • pathologists and laboratories
  • pharmacies
  • healthcare funders
  • medical and hygiene suppliers
  • certain cost-reduction agreements and practices

On 27 March, for quarantine purposes the hotel industry was issued with a block exemption from the same sections of the Competition Act.

Directives affecting the financial sector

directive issued on 23 March exempts two banking operations from these sections of the Competition Act:

  • the payments system
  • debtor and credit management

In addition, to support SA’s banking system as it responds to the needs of customers during the Covid-19 epidemic, the Prudential Authority has issued three directives summarised in a media statement released on 6 April:

  • directive on the liquidity coverage ratio lowered the minimum requirement
  • directive on restructured loans to households, small- and medium-sized businesses and corporates ‘in good standing before the Covid-19 crisis’ provided capital relief that also applies to ‘specialised lending’
  • directive on temporary capital relief reduced the prescribed ‘minimum requirement of capital and reserve funds to be maintained by banks’

Business in general

Retailers specialising in non-essential goods

directive issued on 24 March exempts ‘designated retail tenants’ and ‘retail property landlords’ from certain sections of the Competition Act, allowing negotiations on ‘payment holidays or rental discounts’ and ‘limitations on evictions’. A media statement on broader measures affecting the business community refers to three categories of retailers:

  • ‘personal care functions’
  • restaurants
  • clothing, footwear and ‘home textile’

Stockpiling and price hikes

directive on stockpiling and ‘unjustified price hikes’ by retailers and suppliers was issued on 19 March. A media statement on Department of Trade, Industry and Competition lockdown measures notes that the purpose of the directive is to ‘protect consumers, … ensure fairness and promote social solidarity’ by:

  • ensuring that no price rise exceeds a related increase in the cost of raw material and/or other inputs
  • capping price increases at pre-lockdown levels
  • requiring retailers to:
  • ‘take steps to limit the quantity of goods sold to any individual consumer’
  • stock all ‘basic products’
  • maintain adequate stocks of these products, including over weekends and during month-end peaks in shopping
  • prohibiting stockpiling at wholesale cash-and-carries

Broadband

directive issued on 6 April is expected to fast-track the process of allocating high-demand radio frequency spectrum and the temporary licensing of any other spectrum already available. An ICASA media statement confirmed that the directive’s intention is to ‘enable’ the electronic communications sector to meet increased demand for ICT services during the lockdown, when so many people are working and studying from home.

The directive also requires network providers to allow zero-rated access to local educational content websites and ‘virtual classroom platforms’.

Call centres

directive on essential service call centres was issued on 9 April, affecting:

  • workforce size
  • workstation spacing
  • sharing equipment, stationery and utensils
  • ventilation
  • biometric contact access points
  • movement outside call centre premises
  • self-monitoring for Covid-19 infection symptoms
  • mandatory symptom disclosure
  • self-quarantine protocols

General regulations

Here’s how things stand, just over three weeks after a national State of Disaster was declared on 15 March – and as SA enters its third week in lockdown. The basics are taken from disaster management regulations gazetted on 18 March, amended on 25 March to include lockdown measures, amended again on 26 March and on 2 April.

The exact wording of the amended regulations can be found here for more detail on funerals, Covid-19 testing and contact tracing.

Movement of people

You’re confined to your home, unless you

  • perform or provide an essential service (if necessary, you may travel to another city, district or province to do so)
  • want to purchase an essential good or avail yourself of an essential service
  • are collecting a social grant or pension
  • needto receive emergency, life-savingor chronic medical attention
  • need to attend a funeral

Note:  Anyone performing an essential service, purchasing essential goods or seeking medical attention may be screened for Covid-19 by an enforcement officer

Only certain people may travel to another city, district or province to attend a funeral:

  • the spouse or partner of the deceased
  • a child of the deceased (whether biological, adopted or a stepchild)
  • a child-in-law of the deceased
  • a parent of the deceased (whether biological, adopted or a stepparent)
  • a sibling of the deceased (whether biological, adopted or a stepbrother or stepsister)
  • a grandparent of the deceased
  • a ‘person closely affiliated to the deceased’ (because of parental or caregiving responsibilities or ‘psychological or emotional attachment’)

In each case, a permit is required (from a magistrate or SAPS officer)

Gatherings

  • only funerals are allowed, and no more than 50 people may attend

Movement of goods

  • cargo may be moved from ports of entry to their intended destination (but only if it has been sanitised/disinfected)

Movement of mortal remains

  • this requires a permit

Businesses

  • only businesses involved in manufacturing/producing and/or supplying/providing an essential good or service may operate during the lockdown
  • if business operations are conducted remotely from a person’s home or from another country, these activities may continue
  • only retail shops selling essential goods may remain open for business (in such cases, there should be a distance of at least one square meter between everyone on the premises, hygienic conditions should be maintained, and all the necessary protocols followed)
  • they may only sell essential goods
  • shopping malls are closed
  • the premises, plant, machinery and inventories of businesses not allowed to operate during the lockdown must be adequately maintained so they can resume operations when the lockdown ends

Public transport

  • there are no commuter transport or other passenger transport services operating
  • the only passenger transport vehicles allowed on the roads are buses and taxiscarrying people who:
    • provide essential goods or services
    • need to obtain them
    • need medical attention
    • are collecting social grants or pensions
    • are attending a funeral service
  • private motor vehicles may be used for the same reasons
  • buses and e-hailing services may not carry more than 50% of their licensed capacity
  • mini- and midi-bus taxis may not carry more than 70% of their licensed capacity
  • private vehicles may not carry more than 60% of their licensed capacity
  • where transport is provided by an employer, the vehicle used may only carry 50% of its licensed capacity
  • all hygiene and exposure limiting protocols must be followed

Borders

  • all national borders are closed (except to consignments of fuel, cargo and goods)
  • only in special circumstances is anyone allowed to enter or exit SA (for emergency medical attention to a life-threatening condition, or for repatriation to their country of nationality or permanent residence)

Essential goods

  • food
    • any food product, including non-alcoholic beverages
    • animal food
    • chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in producing any foodstuff
  • non-food
    • pharmaceuticals
    • cleaning and hygiene products
    • toilet paper, sanitary pads, sanitary tampons and condoms
    • hand sanitiser, disinfectants, soap and household cleaningproducts
    • personal toiletries, including haircare, body and face washes, deodorants and toothpaste
    • products for the care of babies and toddlers
    • medicaland hospital supplies and equipment
    • personal protective equipment
    • fuel, including coal, wood and gas
    • basic goods, including airtime, electricity and cash (withdrawn from ATMs)
    • chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in producing essential non-food goods (including alcohol for industrial use)

Essential services

  • medical, health (including mental health) and laboratory services
  • services provided by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases
  • disaster management, fire prevention, firefighting and other emergency services
  • services necessary to maintain the functioning of SA’s financialsystem (when the operation of a place of business or entity is necessary to continue performing those services)
    • the banking environment (including the operations of mutual banks, cooperativebanks, co-operative financial institutions and the Postbank)
    • the payments environment
    • the financial markets (including licensed market infrastructures)
    • the insurance environment
    • the savings and investment environment
    • pension fund administration
    • outsourced administration
    • medical schemes administration
    • call centres necessary for providing these services
    • debt collection services are explicitly excluded
  • funeral and cremation services, including mortuary services and those necessary for transporting mortal remains
  • wildlife management, anti-poaching, animal care and veterinary services
  • newspaper, broadcasting and telecommunication infrastructure and services (including the call centres necessary for supporting these services)
  • the manufacture and production of essential goods
  • the sale of essential goods
    • grocery stores
    • wholesale produce markets
    • spaza shops
    • informal traders (informal food trading requires a permit)
  • electricity, water, gas and fuelproduction(including vital demand management,supply and maintenanceservices)
  • essential municipal and other government services and the call centres necessary for providing them
  • any other jobs key to providing essential municipal and other government services, including
    • contact tracing (to find people who have been in contact with anyone infected with the Covid-19 virus or are infected themselves)
    • patient transport
    • issuing birth and death certificates
    • replacing identification documents
    • services related to the essential functioning of courts, judicial officers, the Master of the High Court, Sheriffs and any legal practitioners required for those services
    • essential SARS services
    • police, peace officers, military personnel, medical personnel, correctional services officials, traffic officers and traffic management services
    • social care services provided to older persons, the mentally ill, persons with disabilities, the sick and children (including services providing for the social relief of distress)
    • cleaning, sanitation, pest control, sewerage, waste and refuse removalservices
    • postal services
    • airtraffic navigation, air charter, cargo shipping anddockyard services
    • the Civil Aviation Authority
  • private security services
  • air charter services
  • courier services for transporting medical products
  • tow trucks and vehicle recovery services
  • gold, gold refinery, coal and essential mining services
  • accommodation for peopleproviding essential services
  • accommodation for quarantine, isolation and other lockdown measures
  • rail, road, air and maritime freight/cargo services
  • logistics and transport services for essential goods
  • logistics and transport services for cargo and goods toneighbouring countries
  • harvesting and storage activities essential to preventing the wastage of primaryagricultural goods
  • payroll systems
  • critical maintenance services
  • services rendered by ‘the executive’, MPs, the members of provincial legislatures, local councillors, traditional leaders and ‘the national office bearers of political parties represented in Parliament’
  • the Public Protector and Deputy Public Protector
  • Commissioners of the South African Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission and the Commission for the Promotion & Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious & Linguistic Communities

Places closed to the public

  • anywhere ‘normally open to the public’ for religious, cultural, sporting, entertainment, recreational or ‘organisational’ activities
    • parks, beaches and swimming pools
    • exhibition centres
    • flea markets
    • open air food markets
    • restaurants
    • fetes and bazaars
    • hotels, lodges, guest houses, game reserves and holiday resorts
    • night clubs
    • casinos
    • ‘on-consumption premises’, including taverns, shebeens and shisanyama where liquoris sold
    • ‘off-consumption premises’, including bottle stores and the sections of supermarkets selling liquor
    • theatres and cinemas
    • retailers and wholesalers dealing in non-essential goods
    • shopping malls and centres (only grocery stores and pharmacies in those locations may continue operating)
    • taxi ranks, bus depots, train stations and airports

 

We hope you find this useful. Let us know of any improvements you believe need to be made (info@pmg.org.za)

 

Compiled by Pam Saxby