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Scrapping of ‘monstrous’ road accident bill welcomed

27 August 2020 - 07:46 By Denis Droppa
Claiming from RABS would not have required proof of who caused a vehicle accident. Picture: REUTERS
Claiming from RABS would not have required proof of who caused a vehicle accident. Picture: REUTERS

Motorists have been saved from a potentially huge increase in the fuel levy by the scrapping of the controversial Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) bill.

This is the view of Kirstie Haslam, partner at DSC Attorneys, who said a big fuel levy hike would have been required to finance what would have been a “monstrous” scheme.

Last week, the Portfolio Committee on Transport in parliament rejected the contentious RABS bill, which was mooted to replace the bankrupt Road Accident Fund (RAF).

RABS was widely criticised by the legal and medical fraternity as well as opposition parties for proposing no-fault compensation for road accident victims. This meant a person injured in a road accident would have been entitled to compensation irrespective of fault, and there was no need to prove the liability of the person who caused the crash.

This would have resulted in drunk and reckless drivers being rewarded for their conduct, making them eligible for the same benefits as innocent accident victims, says Haslam.

Also, victims would have been required to negotiate a cumbersome and complex administrative process on their own because RABS sought to exclude road accident victims’ rights and access to legal representation, she says.

“Ultimately, the committee has recognised the inherent multiple problems with the bill, including its unfair and devastating potential impact on the poorest of the poor, coupled with the fact that it is utterly unaffordable to implement,” said Haslam.

The DA also welcomed the decision to scrap the proposed RABS bill, saying current RAF claimants would have had to be financed parallel to RABS while the transition from one system to the other was facilitated, and neither the fiscus nor South African consumers would have been able to afford two road crash compensation streams. Already, R2.07 (more than 13%) of each litre of fuel bought goes to the RAF, which is technically insolvent due to the large number of road accident claims.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni and transport minister Fikile Mbalula were both proponents of the RABS bill, saying the RAF fuel levy was not enough to match the fund’s liability which as of March 2020 stood at R324bn.

While the RAF system is rife with problems its shortcomings can be fixed by amending the current legislation, and RABS is simply not an acceptable alternative, says the DA. It believes the RABS bill is antipoor, unaffordable and poses major stumbling blocks for road accident victims.

It noted that other problematic proposals made by RABS was that payments for loss of income would no longer have been made in lump sums but paid out monthly at a cap, claims were to be paid through an administrator and not a private attorney, claimants would have to cover the costs of obtaining medical and police reports, and payments would cease after 15 years regardless of whether a victim was fully rehabilitated.

Pieter de Bruyn, Chairman of the Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims, says RABS would have undermined South Africans’ constitutional rights.

“The withdrawal of the RABS bill is not the end but only the beginning. RABS may be dead but the RAF is still in a critical condition and in ICU and requires urgent, logical and practical solutions; and fast,” he says.