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SCA rules against employee who wanted to claim RAF after she was knocked down by a forklift

File Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

File Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 13, 2023


Pretoria - The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled against a Spar employee who wanted to claim from the Road Accident Fund (RAF) after a forklift being operated at her workplace ran her over leading to her admission into hospital.

Ndidzulafhi Menangwele was knocked down by a Hyster 250 forklift driven on November 14, 2016 at her workplace at Nzhelele Spar, Vhembe district, Limpopo.

According to Menangwele, she reported to work early in the morning and she saw the forklift reversing towards the receiving bay. She said the forklift knocked her, causing her to fall and then drove over her leg.

She filed for damages against the RAF, which conceded the merits at 80% in her favour, provided the high court found the forklift to be a motor vehicle.

“Menangwele testified that the forklift was generally used to carry loads within the Nzhelele Spar premises; that the receiving zone was used for stock loading; and the receiving zone was separated from the outside parking areas by a gate. The forklift would, however, sometimes be driven outside the Spar premises, crossing over the public road to Boxer store,’’ read the court papers.

The driver of the forklift, Mashudu Tshishonga testified on behalf of the RAF and said he was licensed to drive the forklift and had been driving it for nine months before the incident occurred.

He denied that the forklift would sometimes be driven outside the premises or around the parking areas. He testified that he was specifically told and trained not to drive the forklift on the main road.

RAF did not expressly deny that the forklift that caused the damage was a motor vehicle, however, the only remaining issue in respect of the merits was whether the particular forklift was a motor vehicle or not.

There are three requirements to be met for a vehicle to qualify as a “motor vehicle” under the RAF Act. The vehicle must: (a) be propelled by fuel, gas or electricity; (b) be designed for propulsion; and (c) on a road.

The High Court in Thohoyandou found that the forklift that caused injuries to Menangwele’s leg could not be classified as a motor vehicle for the purpose of the RAF Act.

Furthermore, it was held that the collision occurred in an area militated against the RAF incurring liability for her injuries.

At the SCA, Judge Daisy Sekao Molefe upheld the high court decision and said the receiving area was a private area and not a road. It is used only to receive and load goods and is not used by the general public.

“The Hyster 250 forklift therefore does not qualify to be classified as a motor vehicle for purposes of the RAF,” said Judge Molefe.

Molefe however said Menangwele’s decision to appeal the high court ruling could not be said to constitute an abuse of court process.

“It would therefore be fair and just that each party bears its own costs in respect of this appeal. In the result, the appeal is dismissed, each party to pay its own costs,” she said.