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RAF Embraces Fiscal Turbulence: Assets Seized Amidst Unpaid Debt Crisis

Published March 18, 2024
2 months ago

The Road Accident Fund (RAF), South Africa's state insurer established to compensate victims of road accidents, found its own assets frozen and seized on 15 March 2024, as sheriffs marched into its Menlyn offices. This dramatic escalation came in light of the RAF’s failure to adhere to over 1,300 court orders, compelling the RAF to part ways with its assets, which notably included a batch of fridges.

Legal confrontation peaked when a law firm enforced the court orders, representing a staggering R113 million worth of RAF's assets that were to be claimed. The RAF has been embroiled in contentious dispute for not settling claims, numerous of which pertain to crucial healthcare provisions for road accident victims.

The financial imbroglio stretches out to various healthcare institutions, with Benoni's Sunshine Hospital topping the list. The 200-bed and four-theatre hospital, bespoke for accident trauma, claims an overdue payment of R63 million, which has led to significant operational hiccups, having once shut its doors due to financial insufficiency when a colossal R394 million debt hung over its operations.

Despite a temporary respite with a Pretoria High Court order last year mandating a R301 million payment by the RAF, dates with the docket resumed as the fund ceased payments after a mere six months.

The RAF's revenue mechanism, a levy on fuel, has not seen an increment since the financial year 2021/22. The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), a civil society organization, interprets the government's silence on a potential increase during the recent budget speech as deliberate - a political nuance influenced by the electoral calendar. Nonetheless, Outa has made a clear forecast that future fiscal strategies may willingly tap into the "easily collectable" RAF levy to address the surrounding economic constraints.

As the National Treasury forwent adjustments to the RAF and general fuel levies, it bestowed an indirect tax relief around R4 billion for the 2024 financial year. Minister of Finance, Mr. Godongwana acknowledged the burdensome cost of living and the ripple effect of fuel prices on essentials like food and transport. Yet, this would be the fourth year in a row that the RAF levy, currently standing at R2.18 per litre, has not been increased despite a substantial hike over the past decade.

The incident at the Menlyn offices of the RAF underscored the dire financial straits the fund is embroiled in. Prioritizing the stability of healthcare services heavily reliant on RAF payouts over increasing tax burdens presents a precarious balancing act for South African authorities. Will a fuel levy climb be the sought-after remedy, or is a systemic overhaul needed to address the inefficiencies beleaguering the RAF? Only the unfolding months will tell.

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