More than eight years after a matric pupil was severely injured in a car crash, her family is still fighting for the Road Accident Fund (RAF) to make good on the more than R11m settlement to which it initially agreed.

The Herald reports RAF chief executive Collins Letsoalo has since become personally involved in the protracted battle playing out in the Eastern Cape High Court (Gqeberha).

In court papers dated 13 May 2021, the RAF asked the court to set aside a June 2020 order awarding the woman R11.4m in damages because Letsoalo had not signed off on the offer at the time.

The fund said Letsoalo had not approved the offer, stating that ‘the required approval process which was not followed prior to the granting of the court order renders the order constitutionally invalid’.

The RAF had initially agreed to pay R600 000 to the young woman, who was left with lifelong injuries in April 2015, when the car she was travelling in collided with two others on the M17 near Swartkops.

It is alleged the accident was caused mainly due to negligence on the part of one or all the drivers.

Unhappy with the R600 000 settlement offer, her relatives approached attorney Lunen Meyer, who took the matter to court with a claim of R19.5m.

The Herald says the RAF then agreed to pay her R11.4m.

In June 2020, an order was made by the High Court for settlement in that amount.

However, the fund never released the money and brought an application for the court order to be set aside.

The matter was then taken to Case Flow Management in an effort to speed up the process.

In December last year, after numerous postponements, Eastern Cape Deputy Judge President David van Zyl ordered that an interim payment of R1m be made to the woman.

In March, Van Zyl directed Letsoalo to file an affidavit explaining in detail why the RAF had failed or refused to comply with directions concerning pretrial agendas and responses, and to make the interim payment.

Van Zyl further ordered that Letsoalo provide reasons why he should not be directed to pay the costs associated with the matter out of his own pocket. 

The Herald notes Letsoalo had been ordered to file his affidavit no later than 25 April, or to appear in court in person. But in an affidavit dated 10 May, Letsoalo did an about-turn and confirmed that he had, in fact, authorised the offer.

Letsoalo further claimed that he was unaware he had to file an affidavit or attend an 26 April Case Flow Management meeting, saying he had not received an email to this effect.

‘I will have to investigate why the directives were not brought to my attention and ensure consequence management where it is found there is any dereliction on the part of any RAF functionary.’

Letsoalo said it would not be appropriate for him to be held liable for the costs in the Case Flow Management process.

‘A cost order against me is unwarranted,’ Letsoalo said. 

The court ordered last month that an additional interim amount of R3m be paid to the victim.

The case was postponed to 25 March next year for trial at the RAF’s request.

Full report in The Herald