Fuel hike to prop up Road Accident Fund welcomed by attorneys but alarm bells mute applause
This week’s 47c per litre hike in the fuel price includes a 17.5% increase in consumer contributions to the Road Accident Fund (RAF). While the increase in funding for the redlining institution is lauded by the Johannesburg Attorneys Association (JAA), the association’s Michael de Broglio says that the limitation of citizen benefits through Bill Amendments mutes the applause.
“It’s a tragicomedy,” says de Broglio. “On one end of the scale government’s open palm takes evermore from the motorist while with the other hand it removes benefits and basic common law rights.” He says while increased funding is necessary for the fund to cope with the increasing number of road accidents in the country and resulting claims, alarm bells should ring given the contraction of benefits. “Private enterprise will never get away with something like this,” he says, “but it seems that even in an election year institutionalised incompetence is allowed to plod along largely unnoticed. It has to end.”
De Broglio says that outside the RAF the problem is far wider. “It starts with the state of disrepair of our roads, corruption in the licensing department and fair-weather law enforcement. This all, of course, leads to increased accidents, more victims and ultimately a rise in the number of claims. It’s a chain of events that can only be solved by taking a holistic view of the issue. The Minister of Transport has had the opportunity to effect real changes but, until now, spin-doctoring and handing the short end of the stick to citizens seems to have been the obviously ineffective solution.”
The Law Society of South Africa (LSA) announced earlier this week that it had issued court papers to challenge the RAF Bill Amendments in Court, and this was welcomed by the JAA. “Perhaps this would urge the Department of Transport to change gears and reverse some of the unfriendly amendments to the Bill and at the very least return to South Africans their basic common law right to litigate against guilty parties of road accidents.” The increase in RAF contributions should be channelled to where it is needed most, the victims on our roads. De Broglio is confident that victory by lawyers in challenging the Act may prompt action by the Minister to address every link in the chain and, for the first time, realise a real reduction in motor vehicle accidents, injuries and fatalities.
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