The Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) would encourage drink driving

THE ANC government's revised Road Accident Fund encourages traffic violations, says the writer. Leon Knipe

From then beginning of this process, it was blatantly obvious that the ANC did not have the vehicle crash victim in mind when considering the Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) Bill. This Bill was considered in Parliament yesterday and was thrown out as the ANC could not muster a quorum to pass this terrible bill.

There is much said, by the ANC, about how lawyers are “milking” the fund. The fact is that the enormous RAF legal bill is caused by claims being opposed by RAF contracted attorneys who in most cases have no legal basis to oppose the claims. With the RAF’s estimated liability being R200 billion, this makes the situation even worse. The RAF have legal fees of close to R7 billion annually, from about R180 million 9 years ago.

Claims are settled shortly before any final legal proceeding. An example of this is that 90% of cases in the North Gauteng High Court are RAF cases with less than only 1% actually going to trail. Courts are generally overburdened thanks to RAF cases which constitute about 80% matters on court rolls. The current system was developed when South Africa had only 500 000 cars on the roads and now we have more than 11 million cars.  To make it worse we have more than 14 000 road related deaths annually and about 140 000 seriously injured persons on our roads per annum.  There are about 70 000 claims per annum.  South Africa has about 156 road fatalities per 100 000.  The international good standard is less than 10.

The RAF is funded via the fuel levy. The current fuel levy of R1,93 per litre of fuel generates about R3,2 billion per month, yet it can’t make ends meet. The South African system, until about a decade ago, was seen internationally as one of the fairest, most reliable and accurate, then systemic corruption and maladministration took hold.

With this in context, it is clear that the Department and the RAF did not do proper research when looking into RABS. Clearly this Bill is unconstitutional.  This Bill will significantly reduce the scope of practice and work of attorneys and medical experts. The ANC has been pursuing the continued narrative that attorneys are bad and stealing poor claimants’ money. This narrative is led by blind, illogical political stubbornness to implement this Bill at all cost.  Should this Bill be passed, it would lead to the total breakdown of the rule of law and accessibility to the courts.

The average claim takes 55 months to finalise. The implications of RABS are that there would be a significantly reduced chance of justice and fair compensation to road accident victims. The legal fraternity, the rule of law and the rights of the public are now in severe risk. The reality is that the Bill will disadvantage the poor the most

If RABS becomes law, any person younger than 18 making a claim will cease to receive benefits once they reach the age of 18 even if they need the benefit for life.  And if you think your grandmother can claim when she gets knocked over by a car, then think again. RABS ensures that anyone older than 65 will be guaranteed of not receiving any benefits whatsoever, even if they need this assistance for the rest of their lives.

But this isn’t the worst issue. In future we will not only pay more and receive less but those that shouldn’t receive anything at all, will. RABS is a no fault system. The RABS Bill proposes that anyone claiming from RABS would not require to prove if a vehicle crash was caused by any party involved in that crash. This means that even if an accident was caused by a person, that person will also be able to claim from the proposed RABS.

To put it bluntly; a drunk driver can repeatedly cause an accident and even kill people involved in a crash and will be able to claim from RABS over and over again. In other words, a drunk driver would be rewarded for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Manny de Freitas is the Shadow Minister of Transport for the Democratic Alliance.