Durban – Critics of the Road Accident Fund Amendment Bill, say if it is passed it will pose a grave threat to the rights and well-being of accident victims across the country.
Legal experts and civic organisations say draft amendments gazetted by Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga are intended to help the financially struggling state entity, which posted an R8.4bn deficit for the 2022/2023 financial year.
Almost R9.7bn is owed to claimants with some waiting years for these claims to be finalised.
Deputy Minister Lisa Mangcu told Parliament recently that the amendments would resolve the current issues the RAF is grappling with.
She said the fund was comfortable that it could meet its financial obligations but it had a ways to go to return to a financially sustainable path.
Dave Campbell, co-chair of the KwaZulu-Natal Personal Injury Attorneys Association said the amendments would remove the right of drivers, passengers and pedestrians to claim compensation.
“The RAF had made significant reductions to the amount that could be claimed and it is not desirable to make further changes.
“Currently in the case of a hit-and-run where the victim is unable to identify the owner of a vehicle you are still able to pursue the claim but the amendment intends to remove this completely.
“The intention is to remove general damages completely, no matter how serious or devastating the collision is and the impact on life. If they remove special damages, then claims will not look at past and future loss of income or medical expenses.”
Campbell said the removal of general and special damages and the offer of annual annuity payment which is subjective is problematic.
“This will happen while the RAF continues to collect R45bn a year which they currently receive from the fuel levy to fund payouts to victims.
He said the draft amendment bill would affect the most vulnerable in society.
“This came as a surprise and does not appear to be any consultation with attorneys, practitioners or medical experts.”
Campbell said the deadline to submit comments and objections was October 8.