It appears unlikely that controversial amendments to the Road Accident Fund (RAF) Act will be rushed through Parliament - especially after the bill was criticised by virtually all who attended hearings before the transport committee this week.
It appears unlikely that controversial amendments to the Road Accident Fund (RAF) Act would be rushed through Parliament - especially after the bill was criticised by virtually all who attended hearings before the transport committee this week.
The national assembly announced on Wednesday that next week's special plenary to pass urgent bills had been postponed. According to , it was a reprieve for hard-pressed committee members who had been finding that a seemingly simple seven-page bill was riddled with problem areas, not least being a long list of potential constitutional challenges.
Lawyers, hospitals, victims' associations and quadriplegics' organisations told the committee on Tuesday that the amendments, which include only some key recommendations of the Satchwell commission of inquiry into the fund, would make matters worse.
According to , they claimed the cash-strapped fund would lose more money and that the constitutional rights of road accident victims would be infringed by the amendments.
There were substantial complaints that there had been no consultation on the bill before Parliament, despite the fund claiming extensive consultation going back to 2001. Many claimed this was not valid because the consultation had been on an earlier draft and not on the bill released last month.
The proposed change to the present system of lump sum payment to accident victims to monthly instalments in arrears.
The report quoted Andre Calitz, speaking on behalf of a coalition of objectors to the bill, as saying that three of the five actions provided for in the bill were supported, but two were vigorously opposed and were in all likelihood unconstitutional.
He said an opinion from senior counsel said paying medical expenses in arrears was a breach of both the right to health care and the constitutional right to not be unfairly discriminated against.
He stressed that in the commission report Judge Kathy Satchwell had said that it was difficult to comprehend how the fund could "believe that it is equitable and reasonable for compensation to be paid in arrears. How long will the disabled wait for their compensation? On what must they live in the meantime?"
Calitz said paying monthly installments in arrears instead of in a lump sum would extend the relationship the fund had with victims from a few years to 50 or 60 years, with massive increases in costs and bureaucracy.
Clauses stipulating that any funds paid out to an accident victim in terms of insurance and other means would be deducted from the compensation paid by the fund. The Road Accident Victims' Association told the committee that providing for a tariff of compensation and halting full compensation would take the situation for people disabled in accidents back to 1942.
Then the third-party system, the forerunner to the fund, was established under the principle that full compensation would be paid. This was about to be ended by the new law, a spokesman said.
The SA Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and the Law Society of SA said that while their names were included as having been consulted this was not true. This was echoed by the Quadriplegic Association of SA, which insisted on being consulted, and the General Council of the Bar, which said it could not understand why it was not consulted.