RABS BILL WOULD RIDE ROUGHSHOD OVER RULE OF LAW

Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - MANNY DE FRE­ITAS

FROM the 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.

FROM the 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.

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 R200­bil­lion, this makes the sit­u­a­tion even worse.

The RAF has le­gal fees of close to R7bn an­nu­ally, from about R180mil­lion nine years ago.

Claims are set­tled shortly be­fore any fi­nal le­gal pro­ceed­ing. An ex­am­ple is that 90% of cases in the North Gaut­eng High Court are RAF cases, with less than 1% ac­tu­ally go­ing to trial. Courts are gen­er­ally over­bur­dened thanks to RAF cases, which con­sti­tute about 80% of mat­ters on court rolls.

The cur­rent sys­tem was de­vel­oped when South Africa had 500000 cars on the roads; now we have 11 mil­lion. To make it worse, we have more than 14 000 road-re­lated deaths an­nu­ally and about 140 000 se­ri­ously in­jured on our roads each year.

There are about 70 000 claims a year. South Africa has about 156 road fa­tal­i­ties per 100000. The in­ter­na­tional stan­dard is fewer than 10.

The RAF is funded via the fuel levy. The cur­rent fuel levy of R1.93 a litre of fuel gen­er­ates about R3.2bn a month, yet the fund can’t make ends meet.

The South African sys­tem, un­til 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. This bill is un­con­sti­tu­tional. It 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 the 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 at 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, think again.

RABS en­sures that any­one older than 65 will be guar­an­teed not to re­ceive 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 who shouldn’t re­ceive any­thing at all, will. RABS is a no-fault sys­tem. The bill pro­poses that any­one claim­ing from RABS would not re­quire to prove if a ve­hi­cle crash was caused by any party in­volved.

This means even that if an ac­ci­dent was caused by a per­son, that per­son will also be able to claim from the pro­posed RABS.

A drunk driver can re­peat­edly cause an ac­ci­dent and even kill peo­ple, and will be able to claim: re­warded for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol.

De Fre­itas is the shadow min­is­ter of trans­port for the DA

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