THE RAF AND ITS MISSION STATEMENT
Visitors to this site, who have read previous articles we have posted on this subject, will have noted that for some time we have been quiet. This is because as from 1st August 2008, the Law as we knew it relating to compensation being paid to Road Accident victims has undergone a drastic change and these changes will be highlighted in another article we intend posting on this site. We were aware of the fact that a strong possibility existed that the Law would change and in anticipation of these changes we decided it was prudent to wait out the period of time in anticipation of these changes rather then to air our views on the subject of the Fund which to say the least are somewhat controversial.
However the unfolding of recent events we have encountered first hand in our dealings with the Fund over the past few months. It is no secret that in 2004 the Fund underwent a financial crisis where because of a shortage of Funds it was unable to meet its commitments. The profession and other role players were kept informed of the situation and having been so informed we were able to take remedial action. The situation soon seemed to resolve itself and claimants once again came on track. However in 2008 almost contemporaneously with the enactment of legislation a new crisis manifested itself without prior warning. Since June 2008 a payment logjam has again manifested itself. Not only are Attorneys who act for claimants not receiving funds on behalf of their Clients in respect of obligations assumed by the Fund in terms of settlement agreements and Court Orders, but Attorneys who act for the Road Accident Fund are encountering difficulties in receiving payment of their accounts for services they have rendered to for and on behalf of the Fund.
In our office and during August 2008 we issued in excess of 20 warrants of execution against the Fund to attach assets to settle the claims of at least that number of our Clients who are waiting patiently to receive their Funds. Out of those twenty matters less then one dozen of these payments have since been made. This is so notwithstanding the fact that six of the Fund's motor vehicles were removed in terms of the warrants to the office of the Sheriff. Certain of their funds have been placed under attachment. Unlike the 2004 crisis the profession and other role players have not been informed of the problem. Thus without such prior warning we and many other firms of Attorneys have not been able to take appropriate remedial action. Rumours as to the cause of this situation abound. We are not rumour mongers nor do we have the time or the inclination to spread false rumours. We are keeping our ears firmly placed to the ground eager to receive any information which we can use to ease the frustration we experience on a daily basis. We have also resolved to watch our Clients' affairs carefully and prudently without compromising our Clients and have notified the Fund that we will fight our Clients' causes fearlessly and uncompromisingly.
Perhaps the situation we presently encounter can best be illustrated by the citation of two examples. In order not to breach our obligation to keep our Clients' affairs confidential I will use initials without revealing their identities.
On 28th February 2003, Mrs M, the mother of minor children and who herself is unemployed lost her husband who was killed in a motor accident and our firm was instructed to file a claim against the Fund for loss of support for herself and her minor children. The Fund defended the action and the Trial commenced in the High Court in March 2007. Eight days were spent hearing evidence as to whether an affidavit Mrs M had signed had been delivered to the Fund. At the end of this hearing the Presiding Judge needed time to consider the ruling he wished to make and during September 2007, he dismissed the technical defence the Fund raised by finding that it mattered not whether this affidavit had been lodged. The case on the remaining issues was postponed to a date to be allocated.
At the end of July 2008, the Fund then submitted a reasonable settlement offer which Mrs M decided to accept. We were asked specifically by the Attorneys acting for the Fund to agree that payment could be made on 28th September 2008. Mrs M agreed. The 28th September 2008 came and went with no payment either as promised or at all. We then informed our Opponents that we were aggrieved at the fact that we have not received the payment particularly so in the light of the special concession our Client made and having noted that the Fund wasted eight valuable Court days arguing a technical point while Mrs M and her children are delayed unnecessarily in receiving Funds they need for their daily sustenance. We eventually received payment but only after launching and serving on the Fund an urgent application to the Johannesburg High Court in which we sought an order declaring the Fund to be in contempt of Court, and asking that its Chief Executive Officer be brought to Court to explain why he should not be committed to imprisonment. The Court ordered the Fund to pay the costs of this application on the scale as between Attorney and Client.
The second case relates to Mrs S, also an unemployed mother of young children whose husband died in a motor accident on 10th April 2003. Mrs S's loss of support claim was also defended and the Trial was set down to occur during March 2008. At the Trial the Fund advised that it would settle on a pre determined basis provided we could provide an unabridged birth certificate of one of the minor children. Difficulties were experienced in obtaining this document from the Department of Home Affairs. On 7th August 2008 after procuring possession of a certified copy of this certificate we submitted it to the Fund's Attorneys. It took these Attorneys in excess of one month to obtain confirmation from the Fund to the effect that we could receive this payment in terms of the prior agreement reached in March 2008. The funds in respect of this settlement were received miraculously on 1st October 2008, nearly two months after handing its representatives the document they required. Again an unemployed widow and her minor children were put to extra additional unnecessary hardship.
In previous articles on this subject appearing on this sight, we posed the question "Does the Road Accident Fund live up to its mission statement?" We have not offered an answer. We do not offer an answer now. We let you our reader judge for yourself and again we request you to "Watch this space."
Wednesday, 1st October 2008