Picture: Dumisani Dube/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Durban - The Road Accident Fund (RAF) detected nearly R1 billion in fraudulent claims in the 2017/18 year, leading to 514 cases being referred to the police for investigation.

This emerged on Monday when a Port Shepstone teacher pleaded guilty in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court to defrauding the RAF more than 11 years ago.

Phumla Sikhosana, 59, blamed her poor financial situation after her husband’s death for submitting a fraudulent claim to the fund.

She said in a plea statement that she was never a passenger in a taxi that collided with a cow in 2008, but had submitted the claim to defraud the fund of R28 000 through a law firm based in Pretoria, because she needed the money to sustain herself and her four children.

She said she met a man called Ndovela who told her of an opportunity to make money by claiming from the RAF.

She said she gave Ndovela her documents to make the claim. In the documents she claimed that she was travelling in a taxi when it collided with a cow in the road and she was injured.

“The claim was for R28 000. A sum of R10 000 was paid to my bank account. Ndovela took R5000, while I took R5 000 which I used for my own needs. I know that my actions were unlawful and I am remorseful,” she said.

Sikhosana said she secured a job as a teacher in the same year and was currently earning a monthly salary of R12 000, which she uses to support herself and her children, two of whom were unemployed adults.

Her lawyer asked the court to consider that she was a caregiver to her children.

“After the death of her husband, and unemployed, she had to sustain the family. The court should also consider that at the age of 59, she is a first offender and that although the Road Accident Fund was prejudiced by the fraudulent transaction, she only received R5000 from the R28 000 claim. I ask the court to impose a wholly suspended sentence or a fine,” the lawyer said.

The prosecutor left sentencing to the court, saying that Sikhosana had indicated from her first appearance in November 2018 that she intended to plead guilty, and had shown remorse.

Magistrate D Soomaroo sentenced Sikhosana to a fine of R10 000, to be paid in instalments, or two years’ jail.

Soomaroo said RAF fraud was prevalent and serious because when monies were paid to fraudulent recipients, accident victims with legitimate claims were short-changed.

“Members of the public who should qualify through the fund are jeopardised through such fraud. You claimed to have been a victim of a road accident, knowing very well you were never a passenger in that minibus taxi and that you were never injured in an accident,” she said.

RAF spokesperson Thandeka Ngwenya said a total of more than R820million worth of fraudulent claims were identified before payments were made and 514 cases were referred to the SAPS in the 2017/18 financial year.

She said the RAF had a dedicated Fraud and Investigation Department responsible for implementing measures to prevent, detect and investigate fraud, corruption and other illegal activities.

“We are opposed to corruption and illegal practices in all forms and any party - internally or externally - that engages in fraudulent activities or attempts to do so.

“When such cases occur against the fund, they are pursued vigorously. As a result, a large number of attorneys have been struck off the roll, doctors and SAPS officials arrested, and a number of touts were jailed or are serving suspended sentences for RAF fraud-related matters. Other fraudsters have received heavy fines,” she said.

Ngwenya said instances of suspected fraud could be confidentially reported on the RAF Fraud Hotline - 0800 00 59 19.

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