Robert Dempster
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President Jacob Zuma - South Africa has good stories to tell

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President Jacob Zuma - South Africa has good stories to tell

One mans fight for justice in the form of compensation from the Road Accident Fund

Way back when President Jacob Zuma was being tried for corruption related to Shabir Shaik, I was reading Harold Strachan's book, \'Maak \'n Skuif\'. The book ends with the state trying to prosecute Strachan for a second time, immediately after he had been released from a four year incarceration for terrorism. From my understanding of the book, he is guilty, but gets off as the witnesses used by the state in his case had been used so many times in various other trials, that they were becoming a confused. So I was left wondering how often the justice system fails. It also reminded me of Jacob Zuma who also walked away from his corruption trial, and went on to become the the President of South Africa at the following general election.

At that time I kinda liked the president and also felt that he had the potential to be a good leader, not only of the African National Congress (ANC), but of the country. Unfortunately I no longer think that. However, when he stood up in parliament more than a year ago and said that South Africa had good stories to tell, I felt I needed to cut him some slack. Undoubtedly the country has become a better place, and while we are now slipping a bit and struggling somewhat, let us be fair, there are some good stories to tell. In fact I even have one of my own, although it does not relate to me directly.

During June/July 2010 South Africa was booming as it hosted the Soccer World Cup. I watched one match and then my wife and I escaped to go on a tour in order to visit relatives who now lived in other countries. I had also just retired and so it was a sort of grand holiday. Unfortunately we had hardly left South Africa when we received bad news. Bruce our son had been hit whilst cycling down Town Bush Road by a motorist trying to cross the road against the traffic. His leg had been badly broken and he was in hospital having steel pins inserted. Fortunately there were family and friends who could help, and so we continued with our holiday.

The help he received even went beyond the recovery process, as a friend of one of the family was a lawyer and agreed to help Bruce make a claim against the Road Accident Fund (RAF). That as one would expect started a protracted process and after two years seemed to be going nowhere. The lawyer said as much, and so Bruce expressed his gratitude for the pro bono service that was rendered, and collected all the documentation pertaining to his case and moved on.

Bruce then contacted another law firm. Basically they collected cash from him to the tune of R3000 (R300 per email) without any real progress being made. He also approached a private medical practitioner in order to have his medical case assessed in support of the claim that was being made. This too did not produce any useful results. Both of these actions seemed like the reasonable thing to do. Neither were, they both simply consumed more of Bruce's resources, cash and time, and failed to produce anything useful.

Bruce then decide to go it alone. He started by visiting an RAF representative that was based at Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. She directed him to another RAF representative (who we will call Nandi), who was based at the RAF offices in the Embassy Building in Durban. After exchanging numerous phone calls and emails with Nandi, it at last seemed as if he was making progress. The negotiations then reached a point where she thought it would be a good idea if Bruce came down from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in order to meet with her. He then duly made an appointment to see.

So we set off for Durban with me feeling somewhat perturbed about parking once we reached Durban, as the Embassy Building is in the city center. Fortunately we found a parking garage quite close to the Embassy Building that had space available. Getting to that space was another matter, it took us up a spiral ramp that I still cannot manage to believe I managed to negotiate without bashing the car. But we got to the required level in the building and parked, wondering what it was going to be like to descend the spiral. We then headed for the Embassy Building.

After a short walk we entered the Embassy Building to find pandemonium reigning in the foyer. The lights had jus gone out, Eishkom (Eskom) Load Shedding). Not daunted, we choose to walk up to the 14th floor via the fire escape. So we entered the emergency stairwell illuminated by emergency lighting (it was indeed working) and trudged up to the 14th floor. When we eventually got there, it was only to discover that Nandi did not work on the 14th floor, we needed to descend to the 12th floor.

So down we went. When we reached the 12th floor, we learned that Nandi was not there. She was presently somewhere else in the building consulting with someone. We could wait. There were chairs. Now I should add that waiting in South Africa is not always a simple matter. Patients entering hospital have sometimes sat/lain around for a day or two before being attended to. Never the less, we waited, and it was not in vain. After an hour or so, Nandi did indeed return.

Bruce would have to wait for her to complete what she was doing, and then she would meet with him. So in due course Bruce got to speak to her and emerged from the meeting feeling confident about what was happening, perhaps for the first time. He would have to return to Durban to see a RAF appointed doctor, who would assess his injury in order to support his claim. I should add that by this time all Bruce wanted to achieve was compensation for his medical costs. Now it seemed that if he saw the doctor, he may also be compensated for pain and suffering, disfigurement, etc.

So some months after the Durban meeting, and more emails and phone calls, Bruce and I again headed for Durban so that he could see the RAF appointed doctor at Entabeni Hospital. This again entailed some waiting, but once again saw Bruce emerge feeling more positive about the progress that was being made. Several months passed and then it happened, Bruce received a letter and it duly informed him that it was to be compensated, and that it would be an amount that went beyond his medical expense.

There would of course be another delay, and there was, several months. When that period had passed Bruce contacted the RAF to find out what was going on. There was a problem with money having to be transferred within the RAF, but that would happen, rest assured, he would receive his payment.

And it did, exactly as they said it would!

So there it is, a good story for me to tell that surely could have been one of the stories that the President spoke about when he stated in Parliament last year, that South Africa has a good story to tell.

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