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South Africa: Constitutionality of Road Accident Fund Act Provision Challenged

(May 10, 2010) It was reported on May 7, 2010, that the constitutionality of a provision of the Road Accident Fund Act on the statutory limitation period for making claims against the Fund is being challenged before South Africa's Constitutional Court. (Ernest Mabuza, Three-Year Accident Claim Limit to Come Under Scrutiny in Constitutional Court Hearing, BUSINESS DAY, May 7, 2010, available at

The provision states that the right to claim compensation from the Fund or from an agent for loss or damage caused by a motor vehicle in which the identity of the owner or driver of the vehicle is known will end three years after the date on which the cause of action arose. (Road Accident Fund Act, No. 56 of 1996, ยง 23, South African Government Information portal, (last visited May 10, 2010).) The core of the constitutional challenge is the issue of fairness of the provision. Vusumzi Mdeyide, a disabled person who is mounting the constitutional challenge, argues that the arbitrariness of the provision leads to gross injustice towards vulnerable people who have to rely on others to learn about their rights and the means of their enforcement. It has also been argued that the injustice is not so much the result of the limitation period but the fact that it applies regardless of whether or not the person was aware of his or her right to claim compensation. (Mubaza, supra.)

The defense put forth by the Department of Transportation, the institution with oversight powers over the Fund, and by the Fund itself is one based on expediency. They argue that the three-year limitation period allows the Fund to process claims, which are said to average about 300,000 a year, efficiently and that without the limitation period the Fund's resources would be overstretched. (Id.)