Time is running out for South Africans to object to the Road Accident Fund Amendment Bill which was published by the Department of Transport, and gives objectors effectively until Friday 6 October to lodge an objection.
Advocate Justin Erasmus, Chairperson of the Personal Injury Plaintiff Lawyers Association (PIPLA), says PIPLA has written to the Director General of the Department of Transport this week requesting urgent clarification on some of the proposed amendments as well as an extension of the period for comment.
The changes have drawn widespread criticism from legal and medical experts, and corporate giants like Discovery Health and even the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS).
Erasmus says a draft Bill of this nature with such far reaching implications, not only for the victims of motor accidents but also but also on the livelihoods of all South Africans, has been given grossly insufficient time for proper and meaningful public participation. “It raises serious constitutional issues and it has also not been made clear how, if passed, it will interface and interact with other state institutions or how it will impact these institutions which include not only national but also provincial and local government,” says Erasmus.
Erasmus says without all the information, it is impossible to assess the real impact of these amendments. He cites for example a comment this week by RAF CEO, Collins Letsoalo, saying the social benefit received for future loss of earnings will be a ‘flat rate’ for all persons and not have any reference to what was lost by the accident victim. “If this is true, this should be explained, the details made explicit and the proposed amount provided,” he says.
Based on the Fund’s very poor administrative legacy, what is also clearly missing are the specific details of the funding model to be applied to the proposed new system as well as to the ‘runout’ of the existing model. “This would need to include actuarial reports,” he says.
Erasmus says it is starting to sound like all victims will get in future is a number of small payments of a similar amount which basically amounts to a disability grant. “It gives one the impression that the longer-term plan is to close down the RAF, in all but name, in favour of a disability grant and some future medical treatment.”
It also makes one question where the reduction in compensation envisaged in the change to a limited social benefit scheme will shift the financial burden? Will this now have to be carried by other state role players, the private sector and/or individual South Africans. “The thing we cannot forget is this bill impacts the most vulnerable of all South Africans and yet as far as we know there have been no steps taken to publish the draft Bill for comment in languages other than English and in particular in areas outside the urban centres. PIPLA notes that it will be poor, rural persons who do not speak English as a first language and who are unlikely to have seen the Gazette or realised its impact on their lives.
“We therefore urgently require that the Department of Transport to make available all the information involved in the drafting of the bill and of its potential impact, and hold open the period for comments on the draft Bill, pending the provision of the further information required,” says Erasmus.
Concerned Citizens can have their say on a multitude of different sites including www.roadsafetyrights.org; https://medicalschemes-raf-act.co.za; https://dearsouthafrica.co.za/road-accident-fund to name just three.