Monday, April 18, 2011

Broke Road Accident Fund

Broke Road Accident Fund needs R45bn

April 18 2011

The Road Accident Fund's chief operating officer Andre Gernandt and Markieting and Communications executive Mandla Mvelose speaks to the Pretoria News at their office in Eco Park Centurion.

If the Road Accident Fund (RAF) closed its doors today, it would need at least R45 billion to pay what it owes to cover its backlog of 220 000 cases and other operational debts. It has a deficit of R42bn and things are not looking up.
The fund is insolvent and has been insolvent for the past 30 years. It simply does not have enough cash to foot the bills.
“We are catching our tails,” admitted chief operations officer AndrĂ© Gernandt.
One of the reasons for this, he said, was that the present fault-based system did not work. 
New legislation would have to be put in place to save the day.
The fund is pinning its hopes on the proposed new no-fault basis.
This means that if there has been an accident, a claim will be paid out, but subject to a formula to calculate how much.
As the fund has cash flow problems, victims are being paid on a first come, first paid basis. 
The Road Accident Fund is hopelessly underfunded - the fuel levy is not enough and the Treasury has bailed out the fund several times in the past.
Gernandt said since the fund had run out of cash, the Treasury had bailed it out with a cash injection of R2.7bn in 2006 and another R2.5bn in 2008. 
But this was not enough to save the fund from insolvency.
The fund’s ability to pay was limited to the net fuel levy income it received, which was not enough, said Gernandt.
Veli Mahlangu, chairman of the fund’s advisory committee, in this year’s annual report commented that “the worrying truth is that we are grossly under-capitalised and we have been in this position for many years”. 
“Unless drastic changes are introduced in the way the RAF is funded, we will continue operating under difficult circumstances without adequate funding to settle new claims and the massive backlog.”
Meanwhile, the backlog is growing, judges are frustrated as Road Accident Fund cases congest the court roll and do not seem to get off the ground, and lawyers are upset because they do not get their money on time. 
They often have to threaten to attach the fund’s assets before they are paid.
A Pretoria East law firm, like many others, does not want to be named for fear that it may be prejudiced in its cases by the Road Accident Fund, but says in almost every one of about 90 trials it has handled in the past year against the fund, it has had to get the sheriff to issue writs of execution against the fund for not paying claims.
“Conservatively, the fund wasted more than R81 000 in the past year on sheriff’s charges, only relating to our firm alone. 
“In some instances we have to issue three writs per file and the wasted costs then escalate to R243 000. 
“This is just because it doesn’t pay on time and taxpayers must foot this bill.”
Another lawyer, practising north of Pretoria, is equally fed up with the “wasting of public funds”. 
He calculated that by not settling claims in time, the fund spent about R300m a month in Pretoria alone, on paying for the cost of the legal counsel appearing for the victims. This excluded the fund’s own counsel. 
“This is unnecessary. If they prepared beforehand and settled matters in time, this money could have gone into the pockets of the accident victims,” he said.
According to Pretoria High Court Deputy Judge President Willem van der Merwe, often during the call of the roll in the mornings, counsel for the fund arrive at court unprepared and often ask for postponements.
About 80 percent of the civil roll consists of Road Accident Fund cases.
And about 99 percent of these cases are settled on the steps of the court.
This means that counsel must be paid their fees for the day, as opposed to settling the matters before the trial day and saving legal costs.
The legal fraternity lays all these problems at the door of the fund. 
The fund in turn accuses the lawyers of milking the system and taking more than what is owed to them.
Half of the money paid out by the fund does not reach the pocket of the victim, but goes to the lawyers, says Gernandt.
The fault-base system is simply not working, with lawyers calling a string of experts to try to prove what the victim would have become in future if he was not in an accident, he says. Gernandt calls this “crystal ball gazing” which only inflates the legal bill. “This is money which could have gone to the victims.”
An example of this was a recent case in which the lawyer for the victim called 17 experts, from neurosurgeons to psychologists, to testify. The victim was paid R400 000 in the end and the experts’ bills ran to R580 000 - which the taxpayer once again had to pay. ‘It is all a money-making business,” said Gernandt. 

Farmer Found Dead

Farming family found dead 

Apr 18, 2011

A "well-known" farming family from De Aar, in the Northern Cape, was found shot dead in a bakkie on a gravel road, said police. 

"One of the employees on the farm came across the bakkie just after 6am this morning, about one kilometre from the farm," said Lieutenant-Colonel Hendrik Swart. 

He noticed the farmer was sitting behind the wheel of the bakkie and that he was not responding. 

Swart said the farmer, 58, his wife, 39, and their two daughters, aged eight and six, had been shot dead. Their names were being withheld as they had not yet been formally identified.
"The employee then went to the brother of the farmer on an adjacent farm and informed him," said Swart. 

The farmer's brother phoned the police in De Aar, who arrived at the scene a short while later. 

Police opened the bakkie to find "a lot of jackets" on the front passenger seat. When the jackets had been removed, the police discovered the two girls. Both had "wounds" to the head.
The farmer, in the driver's seat, also had a wound to the head. A .357 revolver was found on his lap. 

The body of the farmer's wife was found under a pile of clothes in the bakkie's loading bin. She too had a head wound. 

"It is suspected that all four persons were killed with the revolver found in the bakkie," Swart said. 

No foul play was suspected.
Post mortems would take place in Kimberley this week. 


Winnie calls South African Court 'illiterate'

Apr 18, 2011

The court in which ANC Youth League president Julius Malema is facing a hate speech trial is "illiterate", ANC MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told supporters on Monday. 


                                      Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

"[ANC Secretary general Gwede Mantashe] is here to educate this illiterate court," Madikizela-Mandela said after thanking supporters for braving the cold, outside the High Court in Johannesburg. 

She said Malema was there not just as youth league leader, but as the ANC's representative

Malema thanked the crowd and said he could not speak about what was said in court as it was "used inside". He urged the crowd to remain disciplined "so we don't give enemies anything to talk about". Unlike last week, on Monday his supporters were unruly outside the court. Malema's bodyguards, some carrying guns, pushed the crowd back as they tried to get a glimpse of him, and shoved aside photographers, cameramen and journalists. 

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane were also at court. Mantashe echoed Malema's words, saying evidence still needed to be given under oath and witnesses were being cross-examined. He said the trial was not just about Malema, but about the ANC's and the country's heritage.
"All these songs played a role in the struggle," Mantashe said.

Poet Mongane Wally Serote earlier told the court what the struggle meant for him. For a young person at the time political consciousness grew when one saw dehumanisation of people. He said people were still paying the price for apartheid today.
"Alexandra as it stands is a direct legacy of apartheid."
Serote said many activists and innocent people were killed during the struggle. They army buried them in shallow graves or blew them up. Many struggle songs were composed during training, on the basis of events in the country at the time.
"It is African culture to sing," Serote said, adding that Bantu education "de-educated" people.
"We came together, understood something and sang together... you won't find a are guided by everybody."
Serote agreed with the view, expressed in court by Deputy Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom last week, that a "national dialogue" on the matter was needed.
He believed the song "awudubhule ibhunu" was not linked to any farm killings. 

Under cross-examination by Afriforum lawyer Martin Brassey, he said Malema was an ANC cadre who would abide by ANC policies because he had no choice. 

Afrikaner interest group Afriforum took Malema to court, arguing his singing a struggle song containing the lyrics "awudubhule ibhunu" or "shoot the boer" constitutes hate speech. 

Testifying in support of Malema's defence, Hanekom said the song "was not a call to violence, but a reference to a period or a system where people took up arms". 


Advocate's Family intimidated

Threat to family in Malema case

April 18 2011

Threatening late-night phone calls, slashed car tyres, computer sabotage, attempts to force their cars off the road and sinister burglaries are among the threats a Pretoria advocate and his family have faced since he became involved in ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s hate speech case. 

Renette du Plessis listens as her daughter, Marinette, talks about how their family has been intimidated since her father, advocate Roelof du Plessis, became involved in ANCYL president Julius Malema's hate speech trial.

But for Roelof du Plessis, SC and his family nothing will deter them in the fight for what they believe to be justice. 

Du Plessis is acting for the Transvaal Agriculture Union in the case. 

The advocate has not reported the intimidation because of his lack of faith in the police.
Now he has been forced to beef up his family’s security and hire guards. 

But they are not the kind seen guarding Malema at court last week. The youth wing leader surrounded himself with semi-automatic machine gun wielding guards, who sparked Judge Colin Lamont’s ire. 

The judge ordered the removal of the armed men from his courtroom in the Equality Court in the Johannesburg High Court on Tuesday. 

The reason for Malema’s strongmen is unknown. ANC Youth league spokesman Floyd Shivambu refused to comment on any possible threats against the organisation’s president or his legal team, saying the matter was “none of your business”

In an SMS sent to the Pretoria News late on Friday Shivambu, first asking what threats the newspaper was enquiring about, said: “There are standing threats on the ANCYL president from segments of Afrikaner, particularly those who were at Eugene Terre’Blanche’s funeral waving the racist apartheid flag and holding up posters threatening the president. 

“Their folly and anger is not very different from what we notice from some insecure Afrikaners.”
Asked for a clarification, Shivambu could not give one. 

Speaking from their home in an exclusive interview, the Du Plessis family, who now have 24-hour security, said they were scared but were not going to let the advocate quit the trial.
Du Plessis’s wife, Renette, asked that neither the location of their home nor the private security they had hired be identified.

Being farmers, the family said that despite the harassment initially stopping “overnight” when Du Plessis raised his concerns in a pre-hearing meeting with all the parties involved, those behind the intimidation had started their campaign again. “We do not know who is behind this, but it all started the moment my husband first began working on the case.” 

After discovering that the tyres on the car of their eldest daughter were sabotaged and cut in such a way that they would burst, causing a potentially fatal accident, the family now fear that the attacks are taking on a more sinister tone. 

To say we are not scared would be a lie. These incidents, especially the latest, are far worse than before,” said Renette du Plessis. 

Among recent “attacks” were Du Plessis’s narrowly avoiding being rammed off the road last week. 

After a recent night out the family returned to find that their house had been broken into.
“Nothing was missing, but our family pictures were placed with newspaper clippings of the court case on our garden rubbish dump. 

“When we turned on our computers that night they crashed. When we took them to a computer store the next day we discovered someone had planted a string of highly sophisticated viruses on the computers, destroying everything on them. 

“Added to these attacks was when two men driving a bakkie tried to force our daughter off the road. 

“These incidents are becoming more sinister. We now fear for our children’s safety. 

“While we do not know what will happen next, one thing is sure, Roelof will continue with this case. 

“He will not stop because if he does it means that those who are behind this have won,” she said.
The couple’s eldest daughter, Marinette, said she became truly afraid when she discovered that her car tyres had been sabotaged. 

Roelof du Plessis said: “It makes one feel as though we are back in the dark apartheid days where state agents followed you, tapped your phones, broke into your homes and intimidated your family.” 

Du Plessis said even if he opened a case “nothing is likely to come of it”