Hitting The Brakes On The Immoral Road Accident Benefit Scheme

The unconstitutional, inhumane and brazenly immoral Road Accident Benefit Scheme may have been postponed for a little while longer, but is this just a speedbump?
Jason Snyman
2019-01-22

Way back in the dying months of 2017, a disastrous Bill for the proposed Road Accident Benefit Scheme found itself before Parliament. For those who don’t know about it, the Bill was designed to replace the existing Road Accident Fund, the details of which had South Africans up in arms. Here’s why:

Under the proposed RABS, accidents will be treated on a no-fault basis. A no-fault scheme means that any drivers who can prove they have been in a motor vehicle accident will be able to submit a claim to RABS. What this means, essentially, is that all road accident victims will be able to receive a benefit, even if the accident was your fault.

Although a no-fault system could reduce administration, we’ll inevitably see an increase in the volume of claims and the amount of compensation to be paid out. As a result, the value of the benefits will have to be reduced in order to keep the plan sustainable. 

The scheme is based on the same model as that of the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner (WCC). Let’s say you’re injured on duty. You’re chopping carrots in a restaurant and you accidentally lose a finger. A claim could then be lodged with the WCC, where your employer pleads your cause on your behalf. Under RABS, however, you won’t have any representation and you’ll have to lodge the claim yourself. You won’t be able to recover your full loss and the compensation / benefits payable to you will be decreased. There’s no long term financial security offered.

All benefits could be withdrawn or reduced at any time by the Administrator. As it stands under the RAF fault-based system, if you were to cause an accident then you’re not permitted to claim. Victims who do qualify then receive substantially higher payments. 

This may seem unfair to those who make small errors on the road. Maybe the clutch slipped and you ended up bumping the car in front of you. In that light, the RABS may be helpful and seem reasonable. However, this brings us to the biggest, most disturbing problem of them all; a person driving under the influence will have the same rights that you do.

They will also be able to claim for damages after they cause a huge accident and leave you paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of your life.

Sound like fun? That’s not even the half of it. Luckily, advocacy groups and opposition parties have rallied in a bid to put the brakes on this immoral scheme. But first, what else is there to worry about?
 

It’s All In Pieces

Under the RABS, people who show a complete disregard for the rules of the road might be able to claim and receive compensation.  If that isn’t horrific enough, let’s take a look at all the other ways in which the RABS has completely dropped the constitutional ball.

  1. You’ll have no right to approach a court, should you be unsatisfied with the benefits on offer.
  2. The RABS will pay medical and healthcare service providers directly. This means that, should you be injured, you no longer have a choice in which medical practitioners or care givers you want to use.
  3. The RABS will take over all existing and future RAF claims, as well as the current RAF staff.
  4. Under the current RAF, in severe cases you may have an attorney champion your cause for you. This right falls away under the RABS.
  5. And of course, human rights will be blatantly violated as well; with child victims of road accidents no longer being able to launch any claims until they are 18 years old, no matter the severity of their injuries. There go any career prospects you may have had in mind.
  6. No more lump sum payment settlements made to those who have experienced severe injuries or damages. The RABS will make monthly payments, with a maximum pay out of R44 000, annually. Considering the fact that you may lose a limb or the ability to work, and R44 000 makes for poor compensation.
  7. The RABS will offer no cover for any victims who earn more than the national average income of R219 820 per year.
  8. These payments will not increase in line with inflation. They will also stop the moment you die, leaving your dependants vulnerable and possibly doomed to live in a refrigerator box under a bridge somewhere.
  9. The RAF takes about 120 days to settle your claims. The RABS will take double the time, and even then, benefits aren’t a sure thing.
  10. The RAF and RABS will have to run concurrently for at least twenty years, due to a huge backlog of unresolved claims, which could result in the fuel levy doubling. If the government wants two systems, guess who’s going to be paying for them? That’s right. You and I.
  11. The RABS, which is supposedly meant to reduce the financial burden of the RAF, could actually become more expensive. This is owing to the fact that administrator, funeral and an increase to minimum national income have reportedly not been costed, according to an independent audit of the bill by True South actuaries.
     

Hitting The Brakes

The decision on whether or not the RABS will replace the RAF has been pushed to sometime later this year. After the National Assembly put the bill to a vote last month, the IFP, DA, EFF, COPE, ACDP, FF+ and UDM all banded together to reject it, leaving only the ANC to advocate it.

Opposition parties, advocacy groups and spokespersons for the legal profession all claimed that the bill was being used as a mechanism for the ANC to garner voter support ahead of the 2019 elections.

Chair of the Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims, Pieter de Bruyn, said:

“The ANC constantly stuck to ignoring the constitution, misleading the public, prejudicing the poor and putting party politics before the best interest of the people of SA.”

“An independent review is the only way any form of fairness or sensibility will prevail. We will now focus our energy accordingly. Passing the RABS bill is a sad day for democracy and the poor.”

De Bruyn (along with many others) has labelled the bill as constitutionally unsuitable. Claims made by minors and the elderly are being excluded, and the public’s access to common law is being stripped away.

“They are just going to force this through with a show of hands. There is no budget, no consideration of the fuel levy - it’s an empty shell.”

Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande, however, argued that the RABS will be reasonable, equitable and affordable. He stated that by cutting out common law, and insisting that all claims be made through the RABS itself, it will put an end to legal professionals prolonging claims processes or exacting unnecessary funds from settlements.

“Today, we are closing the tap,” said Nzimande, before the bill was promptly and outright rejected by absolutely every single person with a brain.