Quote of the week

It is necessary that the integrity of the electoral process be maintained. Indeed, the acceptance of the election as being free and fair depends upon that integrity. Elections must not only be free and fair but they must be perceived as being free and fair. Even-handedness in dealing with all political parties and candidates is crucial to that integrity and its perception by voters. The Commission must not be placed in a situation where it has to make ad hoc decisions about political parties and candidates who have not complied with the Act. The requirement that documents must be submitted to the local offices of the Commission does not undermine the right to vote and to stand for election. It simply gives effect to that right and underscores the decentralised and local nature of municipal elections.

Ngcobo CJ
Electoral Commission of the Republic of South Africa v Inkatha Freedom Party
27 February 2007

Arguments today in CC on RAF claims deadlines

Business Day reports that the Constitutional Court will today begin hearing arguments on whether a section of the Road Accident Fund Act governing the prescription of a claim is inconsistent with the constitution.

Section 23 (1) of the act sets a three-year limit for claimants to claim compensation after an accident. The fund is responsible for paying claims of accident victims and is financed by a fuel levy imposed on motorists.

This section is being challenged by accident victim Vusumzi Mdeyide, whose claim the fund rejected because it was instituted three days after the three-year period expired.

The fund is challenging the action, saying removing this clause will impede the fund’s expeditious processing of claims. The fund said it would also be difficult for it to forecast financial liability for outstanding claims.

Mdeyide, 38, has been blind since childhood and cannot read or write. He applied to the East London Circuit Court for compensation from the fund. Acting Judge Viwe Notshe found section 23(1) limited the right of claimants’ access to courts.

The right in issue is the right of access to courts guaranteed in section 34 of the Bill of Rights. I have not made a specific study of this case, but given the perilous state of the finances of the RAF, the Constitutional Court seems to find themselves in a difficult position.

On the one hand, a blind man – one of the most vulnerable members of society – is being denied something that others can claim. On the other hand, it seems to make sense to limit claims against the RAF to ensure that the fund does not go bankrupt. Much will depend, I think, on the actual facts of the case and whether the claimant could be said to have been negligent himself. I am glad I do not have to decide this one….

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