RAF matters still ongoing

September 19th, 2023
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Deputy President of the South African Women Lawyers Association, Lily Malatsi-Teffo, Chairperson of the Personal Injury Plaintiff Lawyers Association, Justin Erasmus, and director at the South African Medico-Legal Association, Dr Herman Edeling, during the legal profession’s press briefing on the crisis at the Road Accident Fund.

The legal profession was hopeful that more stakeholders would respond to a memorandum sent out on 21 July 2023 that referred to the problems at the Road Accident Fund (RAF). The representative of various organisations in the legal profession, however, has received feedback from some of the stakeholders to whom the memorandum was sent. De Rebus was made aware that the Auditor-General has acknowledged the memorandum and responded that due to the fact that they are currently conducting an audit at the RAF and that there is ongoing litigation between the RAF and the Auditor-General, it would be imprudent for the Office of the Auditor-General to meet with the legal profession.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport has also acknowledged the memorandum. However,  it said that it was on recess at the time the memorandum was sent, and its management committee had not yet sat to discuss the same. They will revert to the legal profession with regard to the memorandum. The Legal Practice Council (LPC) also undertook to respond on the memorandum.

De Rebus was further alerted to the fact that some members of Parliament expressed concern at the general statements that the RAF has been making in public about the legal profession. The statements were described as harmful to the legal profession, as it cannot be said that all legal practitioners are corrupt. The memorandum that was sent out to the different stakeholders in government on 21 July 2023 was at the back of the events that took place during the past couple of months, regarding the issues at the RAF. On 20 July 2023, a joint memorandum by the Law Society of South Africa; the Black Lawyers Association; the National Association of Democratic Lawyers; the Pretoria Attorneys Association; the Johannesburg Attorneys Association; the Gauteng Attorneys Association; the South African Women Lawyers Association; the West Rand Legal Practitioners Association; and the Personal Injury Plaintiff Lawyers Association, together with the South African Medico-Legal Association was published.

The memorandum by the institutions comes after videos circulating on social media and reports in the media showing scores of legal practitioners camping overnight outside the RAF offices in Pretoria in a bid to have their clients’ pending claims settled. The legal profession, in response to what the media has deemed a ‘crisis’ at the RAF, released a memorandum to speak out on issues at the RAF. The memorandum was sent via e-mail on 21 July 2023 to the Minister of Transport; the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services; the Board of the RAF; the Chief Executive Officer of the RAF; the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport; the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts; the Auditor-General; and the LPC, titled ‘Crisis at the Road Accident Fund’.

It explained that the aforesaid collaboration by the legal profession was not only because of the outcry on behalf of the victims of road accidents in South Africa, but also on behalf of the officers of the court and the custodians of the Constitution of South Africa, which provides that everyone has inherited dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected. The memorandum also stated that the Constitution provides that everyone has the right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable, and procedurally fair. The memorandum added that the collaboration, was necessitated by among others –

  • the state of crisis in which the RAF currently finds itself, as articulated by the courts and members of Parliament; and
  • the public narrative of the management of the RAF and the Minister of Transport which aims to shift the blame to the legal profession for the continued woes of the RAF.

Head of Events and Campaigns of the Black Lawyers Association, Maboku Mangena, speaking on behalf of the legal profession at the press briefing on the crisis at the Road Accident Fund.

According to the legal profession, the memorandum succinctly set out a chronological delineation of decisions and actions taken by the current Board of the RAF, which have resulted in the state of the crisis the RAF finds itself in, as well as the detrimental outcomes. The memorandum further sets out a number of basic operational issues and how they add to the dysfunctionality of the RAF. The memorandum also dealt with what the legal profession says was the unfortunate and untrue narrative that the legal professionals are to blame for the RAF’s state of emergency.

In detail, the memorandum delved into:

  • The constitutional obligations of state- and state-owned entities.
  • Management decisions leading to the current state of dysfunctionality and their catastrophic outcomes.
  • June 2020: Termination of the RAF’s panel of attorneys and calling for immediate return of files.
  • August 2022: Directives on past hospital and medical expenses.
  • May 2022: Amended requirements for lodging of new claims and refusal to accept new claims that are not fully compliant with new requirements and denial of compensation to certain foreign nationals.
  • 2023: New contractual undertaking.
  • The non-payment after 180 days and illegal refusal to make certain payments and the sheriff’s costs.
  • Suspended employees.
  • Block settlements.
  • Day-to-day management of core business not in place.

After the memorandum had been sent out, due to engagements in the media with both representatives from different institutions in the legal profession and the CEO of the RAF regarding the memorandum, the legal profession decided that it would be appropriate to hold a press briefing to discuss the contents of the memorandum and to grant the media a platform to ask question to gain clarity on the contents of the memorandum.

The press briefing was held on 3 August 2023, by the National Press Club on behalf of the legal profession, which was streamed live on YouTube under the title ‘Legal profession’s media briefing on RAF issues’. During the briefing the CEO of the RAF, Mr Collins Letsoalo attended. Mr Letsoalo, when addressing the media and legal practitioners, said that he was disappointed by the joint memorandum by the legal profession. He added that he wanted to attend the briefing so that his office could dispel the myths. He said that it was not true that there is mismanagement at the RAF offices. Mr Letsoalo accused the legal profession of wanting him out of office because he is not from that profession. He added that there is nowhere mentioned in the Road Accident Fund Act 56 of 1996 that the CEO of the RAF should hold an LLB degree.

Chief Executive Officer of the Road Accident Fund, Collins Letsoalo, responding to the memorandum by the legal profession at the press briefing that was held by the legal profession.

Mr Letsoalo further said that legal practitioners submit claims that do not have complete documents, such as accident reports, and want the RAF to give an offer on an ‘empty claim’. He asked of those who insist that the RAF is collapsing on which objective test are they basing this claim. He told the media that the doors of the RAF are always open for discussion with the legal profession, but only if the discussion is about the claimant and not about the money.

On 7 July 2023, the legal profession sent out a follow up memorandum, titled ‘Follow up on memorandum: “Crisis at the Road Accident Fund”’. The follow up memorandum referred to the urgent memorandum dated 20 July 2023, which was sent via e-mail to the various stakeholders on 21 July 2023, with regards to the woes at the RAF. The letter stated the concern of the non-response by some of the stakeholders that were sent the letter, three weeks after it was sent.

It stated that since the publication of the 20 July 2023 memorandum, on 27 July 2023, the Minister of Transport published a list of names of approved nominees for appointment to the Board of the RAF, following an invitation for nominations with a deadline for submissions that was on 26 June 2023. The legal profession welcomed the move and stated that hopefully as indicated by the Minister of Transport in a television interview he had, the process will be finalised, and the new RAF Board will entertain the request of the legal profession to meet with the view of finding solutions to the problems articulated in the memorandum. A follow-up article will be published as soon as De Rebus receives feedback from the legal profession.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

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