R1,2m RAF payout but family lives in poverty

Penwell Dlamini

Penwell Dlamini

A Johannesburg mother is struggling to look after her 18-year-old mentally and physically disabled son even though he was awarded R1,2 million in damages two years ago.

Phumzile Lamula's son Sibusiso was hit by a car in 1997 while on his way home from school and left paralysed.

In August 2006 the Road Accident Fund awarded him the money and paid it into the trust fund of his lawyer, Aarthi Thumberan of Johannesburg.

Lamula, 42, and her son are suffering abject poverty and the lawyer cannot explain why he is not paying them out.

Sibusiso was a Grade 2 pupil at Wailers Farm Combined School and was only seven years old when the accident happened on September 15 1997.

He was in coma for three months at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital because of serious head injuries.

Lamula was forced to leave her job at a furniture manufacturing company in Eikenhof, where she had worked for 16 years.

In 1997 she approached law firm Raphael and David Smith to assist her claim from the accident from the RAF. But the claim was only lodged in 2002.

In 2006 the RAF finally awarded Sibusiso R1,2 million, of which R875000 was deposited into the trust account of Raphael and David Smith.

All this time Sibusiso has been in a wheelchair and they lived on the disability grant he is receiving.

Lamula stays with her son in an RDP house in Lehae near Lenasia, south of Johannesburg.

Social workers tried to find a school for Sibusiso but he only lasted two months because his condition deteriorated and he was forced to stay at home.

"The attorneys told me that the RAF had agreed to settle and they advised me to find a house and I identified a house but they told me it was too small for me," Lamula said.

Driven by her living conditions, Lamula went to the RAF office in Johannesburg where she discovered that payment had been made to the lawyers.

A newspaper published Lamula's ordeal and the attorney later agreed to resolve the matter with her amicably.

Ronald Bobroff, vice president of the South African Association of Personal Injuries Lawyers, insists that Lamula must go to the Law Society for help.

Thumberine of Raphael and David Smith Incorporated confirmed that Lamula did instruct them to invest the compensation to ensure that Sibusiso is protected. The money has been invested and is earning interest for Sibusiso.

"If Lamula wishes to alter her instructions she is free to contact us at any time and we will take the matter further."