RAF must explain to court why some claimants are allowed to jump queue
Pretoria - The Road Accident Fund (RAF) is on Friday expected to explain to a full bench of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, why it paid a claimant R1.5 million 11 days after a settlement was reached despite being earlier ordered to pay the oldest claims first.
The full bench proceedings last month were put on hold, and will proceed this Friday. RAF chief executive Collins Letsoalo is asking for a reprieve that the sheriff does not attach RAF assets due to non-payment.
Law firms opposing the application have set out in court papers how many of their clients have been waiting for months, if not years, to be paid following court orders in their favour or settlements.
When last month’s court proceedings were postponed, the parties came to an agreement ‒ which was made an order of court ‒ that the RAF would meanwhile pay the oldest claims first.
This came after numerous complaints from lawyers of alleged irregularities regarding payments ‒ some claimants have to wait years to receive payment, in some instances, they said, but some managed to jump the queue.
In terms of the court order dated December 9, the various law firms undertook not to, at this stage, attach the moveable assets of the fund to retrieve the money owed to them and their clients by the RAF.
The RAF, in turn, undertook to register court orders and settlement agreements on its list of payments due, in order of date reflecting when the court order was granted, or the settlement regarding payment was reached, so that the oldest claims would thus be paid out first.
It has, however, emerged that a prominent law firm received payment of R1.5m on behalf of its client five days after the December 9 court order, and a mere 11 days after it had entered into a settlement regarding this claim. This is despite the fact that others have been waiting for years to receive their money.
Some of the law firms that are still waiting in queue to be paid are questioning this payment, especially because the RAF is pleading poverty.
In the December application ‒ which is now proceeding on Friday ‒ Letsoalo is asking for a 180-day reprieve in which to pay successful claims or settlements. He said in court papers that the RAF was completely cash-strapped, and without the reprieve, it may not financially survive.
The 17 respondents, mostly law firms and sheriffs, are meanwhile fighting for the right of the public who have submitted successful claims or have reached settlements, to be paid within a reasonable time.
The judges were told that the government ‒ especially the ministers of transport and finance ‒ urgently had to come aboard to avoid the RAF from total collapse.
The law firms have set out in court papers how many of their clients are entirely reliant on the RAF payouts.
In an RAF related matter, Judge E van der Schyff recently warned that the fund had to get its house in order and be transparent about its payments to claimants.