In a briefing ahead of his budget speech last week, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni made it plain that the rules of the game of car insurance are about to change. Mboweni said when someone bought a financed car, they had to produce proof of insurance.
Then he remarked: “It is your personal responsibility to buy insurance. Don’t burden the state with your carelessness.” He is correct.
The reason the money pit of the Road Accident Fund (RAF) exists at all is because so many South Africans are behind the wheel without insurance. And, even if they do have cover, most are not insured for medical and consequent damages.
Every year, though, the RAF posts enormous losses and every budget, the finance minister raises the money to fund it by increasing its portion of the fuel levy.
No doubt the RAF has been crippled partly by the sort of inefficiency and wastage that characterise so many government departments and state-owned enterprises, but the whole system should be overhauled.
We could follow the example of countries in Europe and North America, where those in charge of a vehicle on public roads must have not only a valid licence but also to have insurance on the vehicle. In places like the UK, cars can be impounded if they are stopped and found to be uninsured.
We do not see any reason a similar system cannot work here – provided it is ruthlessly enforced. That is the crux of all of the problems on our roads: very few people obey the law. A new, different funding model of compensating road accident victims should be found and compulsory insurance – for third-party injuries – should be instated for all vehicles.
Those who don’t have it should be taken off the roads and scrapped if the owner or driver does not get insurance.