Minister of Transport Sindi Chikunga has called for changes to the Road Accident Fund Act to prevent lawyers from fleecing victims of road accidents out of millions of rands.
Chikunga said she was sitting with a case where a victim was paid R5.7 million, but the lawyer only gave the victim R57,000 and pocketed the rest.
She said it was shameful a lawyer would pocket more than R5.6m from a victim and only gave her R57,000. The law must be changed to favour the victims and prevent lawyers from pocketing millions from victims of road accidents.
She wants victims to claim directly from the RAF, instead of using lawyers.
In this regard, Chikunga said she wants the RAF Act to be amended.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) said they agreed with her on amendments to the Act.
Chikunga was briefing Scopa on Wednesday when she raised the issue of direct payments to victims instead of lawyers.
“The RAF Act, chair, is such that the RAF must always be in court. It was drafted by lawyers for lawyers. They take the RAF to court. That is why we need to amend that legislation to the extent that the RAF is for claimants and not other people. As it is right now, the RAF, I will invite anyone to read it and see that it is actually taken to court every time by lawyers than by claimants,” said Chikunga.
It is against this backdrop that lawyers would get paid directly by the RAF once the court process was over, but they will not pay the victims, said the minister.
She said the case of the R5.7m that was paid to the lawyer where the victim was only given R57,000 was the tip of the iceberg.
Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said that matter has been raised with them and they will engage the portfolio committee on transport to amend the law.
“That matter has been flagged. There may be a need for us to deal with the portfolio committee. There is urgency to the amendments of the RAF Act,” said Hlengwa.
The Special Investigating Unit told Scopa last week that they have recovered R317m from lawyers who had received duplicate payments.
The SIU said it started its investigations two years ago when they uncovered this.
The SIU said lawyers who had been found to have acted illegally, signed the acknowledgement of debt and paid back the money.