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New date set for Road Accident Fund’s hearing into efficiency to fulfil its mandate

Road Accident Fund CEO Collins Letsoalo. Picture: Zelda Venter

Road Accident Fund CEO Collins Letsoalo. Picture: Zelda Venter

Published Jun 29, 2022

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Three judges of the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court will resume a hearing into concerns raised about the efficiency of the Road Accident Fund (RAF) to fulfil its mandate in September.

This will include how it planned to deal with the problems which arose after it fired its panel of lawyers two years ago.

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The judge president of this division, Judge Francis Legodi, Deputy Judge President Sheila Mphahlele and Judge Brian Mashile grilled counsel for the RAF on Monday following various concerns about its functioning.

The hearing was sparked by two cases in which the RAF made a no-show at court, but on the day that these matters were due to be heard (in the absence of the RAF who simply did not bother to defend the matters), it announced that it would settle.

The RAF also did not bother to pitch when the court ordered a pre-trial conference to find out where these matters stood legally.

At the heart of the inquiry – apart from ascertaining whether the fund was properly functional – is whether its chief executive, Collins Letsoalo, and other senior RAF officials should personally foot the legal bill for these two cases.

Judge Legodi subsequently posed a host of questions to the RAF, and ordered that Letsoalo should also be present when these issues are addressed.

Most of Monday was spent on questions from the three judges, who are clearly concerned about the functioning of the fund.

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Judge Legodi ordered that the matter would resume on September 21 and run for two days. He ordered that the RAF, meanwhile, had to file further answers to the questions raised by the court.

These questions include what plans Letsoalo and his board had in place as they had fired their panel of lawyers.

Judge Legodi said on Monday that judges now had the added burden of looking out for the RAF’s interests in court, as it simply no longer pitched to defend matters.

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While acknowledging its shortcomings, the RAF said it had plans in place to improve matters.

These include improving the RAF’s bulk settlement drive throughout the country and reorganising its claim department into a settlement hub.

Regarding the firing of its panel of attorneys, it said the State Attorneys’ offices around the country would take over and the fund would appoint more staff to assist.

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According to Letsoalo, steps were being taken to turn around the RAF’s financial position and ensure that any savings made ultimately redound to the benefit of claimants.

Advocate Ferdi Kerhahn, who appeared for one of the claimants involved in this matter, told the court: “We don’t approach this matter with the intention to name, blame and shame or to point fingers.

“Instead we see this inquiry as an opportunity to explore how things can, with the intervention of the court, be done better to the greater benefit of all involved, including the court, the injured victim, the RAF, the taxpayer and legal practitioners.

“We accept that the RAF is a large ship that cannot be turned around at a whim. That said, the wind of change should have started to blow. It had not,” Kerhahn said.

According to him, the RAF raised side issues which were not relevant to detract from the real problems.

“The inference is irresistible that this is to pull the proverbial wool over the eyes of the court so as not to see the wood for the trees,” Kerhahn added.

The South African Legal Practice Council, admitted as a friend of the court, also raised a number of concerns regarding the functioning of the RAF.

Its stance includes that the RAF should desist from co-opting the court to solve its internal problems and ineptitude.

It also feels that the judiciary should stop performing administrative functions on behalf of the RAF only for the fund to claim savings in its financial statements.

According to the council, the RAF should approach the executive, for which it is the extension, and Parliament to find solutions to its travails.

Pretoria News

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