Clients demand RAF payouts from elusive lawyer

Clients face uphill battle to get settlement funds

08 December 2023 - 08:00
By Lindile Sifile
Sifiso Mazibuko has claimed from the road accident fund through Mkhabela Incorporated after his in 2017 where he had his leg amputated
Image: Thulani Mbele Sifiso Mazibuko has claimed from the road accident fund through Mkhabela Incorporated after his in 2017 where he had his leg amputated

Sifiso Mazibuko, an amputee, lifts his small frame with effort and anguish trying to keep his balance as he walks with crutches down five flights of stairs to the ground floor of his lawyer’s offices.

Temperatures had reached 33°C degrees and the only lift in the North State building in Marshalltown is malfunctioning and skips Mazibuko’s lawyer’s fifth floor, forcing visitors to walk to the ground floor.

Mazibuko had boarded a taxi over the weekend from Ladysmith, KZN, to Joburg CBD hoping to collect his medical files from his lawyer, Arnold Mkhabela of Mkhabela Incorporated, to hire a new legal representative that can accelerate his claim at the Road Accident Fund (RAF). He has been using Mkhabela since his accident in 2017 but says there has been little movement on his claim.

He is among 9,922 legal practitioners that have been taken to the Legal Practice Council (LPC) for various transgressions this year.

Mkhabela, who is due for a court hearing next year, faces a possible LPC suspension. The RAF has referred at least eight cases of misconduct against Mkhabela to the LPC, a body that regulates legal practitioners’ conducts, and two criminal cases to the police for further investigation.

“I’ve had it with this guy [Mkhabela]. He has not been communicating with me and I’m in the dark about my claim. I had hoped that I’d get my documents so I can try another lawyer. I’ve been waiting for years for my payout,” said Mazibuko, who lost half of his right leg in the crash. He could not meet Mkhabela on Monday as he was out of office.

Mkhabela said he was still waiting for the RAF to make an offer for Mazibuko’s claim since 2017. “I can’t just hand over files to a client. There is procedure that needs to happen between myself and the new lawyer he wants to appoint.” said Mkhabela.

Landelani Madela, 30, an unemployed father of three from Durban, had been waiting for his RAF payout for years after being involved in a car crash in 2014. He said he was approached by Mkhabela’s touts while in hospital.

“I found out from the RAF that R350,000 had been paid out to Mkhabela in September 2022. When I approached him with this information he conceded and said he had used the money on himself and would pay it back soon.

“Months went by without being paid and I then lodged a complaint with the LPC and I was told I wasn’t the only person who had complained about him and that the LPC wanted to suspend him. Last week he said he’d pay me by Friday this week.” said Madela.

Mkhabela’s promise to refund Madela comes at the back of a Johannesburg high court ruling in October in which Standard Bank was granted the right to repossess his lavish BMW M850i Convertible and a Land Rover Sport 5, on which he has defaulted with on payments on recently.

Mkhabela called Madela twice in the presence of Sowetan in an attempt to coerce him to retract the interview Madela had given to us,Sowetan stressing that the matter between them had been resolved after he agreed to pay Madela back by today.

LPC spokesperson Kabelo Letebele confirmed piling cases against Mkhabela.

“We did receive a number of complaints, which are still in the process of investigation. The concerns range from alleged failure to diligently attend to client cases to failure to properly handle trust account funds. “At this stage, the LPC has brought a court application for the matter(s) to be properly considered by the court... The LPC will be in a position to give further details when the matters have been considered in court. The court application for Mkhabela’s suspension is scheduled for February 2024,” said Letebele.

In April, a case of theft was opened against Mkhabela by two brothers, Sphesihle and Sphamandla Xaba, whose mother had lodged a claim for loss of income after her husband died in a car crash in KZN in 2015.

According to the RAF, children of the deceased are entitled to the money once they reach the age of 18. Mkhabela allegedly withheld the funds and only informed them a few days after the case was opened when they were in their mid-20s.

Gauteng police spokesperson Capt Mavela Masondo confirmed that a case of theft was opened in Johannesburg. “The complainants later withdrew the case, stating that they resolved the matter with the suspect.”

Joyce Mbonani, 58, from KwaThema in Ekurhuleni wrote to the LPC after she learnt that Mkhabela had been paid R344,900 by the RAF and had not disclosed it to her. She was involved in a taxi accident in 2011 before Mkhabela’s touts found her contact details while she was still in hospital. “I tried calling him several times and he said I was harassing him and even barred me from coming to his office. I called him last week and he said he was driving and would call me back. He never did. I’m desperate for my money because my right arm still doesn’t work very well and I have family to support,” said Mbonani.

Mkhabela said Mbonani’s claim had been paid a long time ago, and but he had not been able to reach her Mbonani for nearly a year.

“We are looking for her but can’t find her. She doesn’t want to talk to us. Her money is available. The only dispute we had with her was over a medical damage claim which was rejected by the RAF and the HPCSA. She was upset about that and took me to the LPC.” said Mkhabela. He accepted Sowetan's offer to bring Mbonani to his office next week. for her funds to be released.