Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Road Accident Fund: where has all the money gone? RAF I

This is a true story. The names and certain identifying information have been changed…not to protect anyone’s privacy, mind you, but to prevent punitive, frivolous litigation…no joke! By the time you reach the end of this story, you’ll understand.

Driver #1
Name: Paul Lemoen
Age: Appx 44
Car: Nissan
Travel Direction: North

Driver #2
Name: Mike Naidoo
Age: Appx 32
Car: Honda
Travel Direction: East

Eye witness
Name: Reggie Visser
Age: Appx 45
Car: Red bakkie (small pickup)
Travel Direction: Parked at side of road

In the 1980s-1990s there lived a physician in an upmarket sea-facing section of Cape Town. He kept both his surgery and his home in this very sought-after, very expensive, very scenic area. Although the entire makeup of the good doctor’s family is unknown, he had at least two sons. One, Thomas, grew up to become a famous South African sports figure, unfortunately rumoured to be involved in at least one high-profile sports scandal, and believed to have been involved certain questionable…but profitable…dealings. The other, Paul, emigrated to the UK and by 2002, after having held several directorships and a position as Corporate Secretary, had become the Finance Director of one of the UK’s largest companies specializing in sports-related goods and services. A Google search on his name indicates that he may well be a member of the Board of Trustees for a major UK charity, one that had nearly £2,5 million in income for its 2005/2006 fiscal year. Clearly, the good doctor’s sons grew to become men of substance…and his son Paul has established deep roots in the UK.

In February of 2005, Paul Lemoen and his family were in Cape Town on holiday. Shortly after Valentine’s Day, Paul and his wife decided to take their kids up the coast and they borrowed his mother’s car for the journey. About 45 minutes north of Dr. Lemoen’s Cape Town residence, Paul was rapidly approaching a T-intersection where Mike Naidoo had stopped at the stop sign before beginning to make a right turn across the northbound lane and head south on the same well-paved highway that the Lemoens were travelling north on.

Parked at the side of the road was Reggie Visser, a contractor who had an appointment at the company where Naidoo worked. He had travelled from the southern Cape Town suburbs and was early for his appointment. Knowing that Mike’s employer had very strict security regarding entrance to the job site, Mr. Visser had parked his red bakkie on the side of the highway, off the verge (paved shoulder), and sat chatting with his wife, whiling away time until the hour of his appointment arrived. As Mike Naidoo pulled his car up to the stop sign, Mr. Visser took specific notice of it, since it was a sleek, stylish sports model with the top down. Mr. Visser noted the car came to a complete halt, for it gave him extra time to admire the pretty little silver car and to comment to his wife “Look at that beautiful car!”

As Mike Naidoo crept forward to begin his turn across the northbound lane, both Mike and Mr. Visser heard the sound of a car hooting. Mr. Visser’s first reaction was to look in his rear view mirror, where he saw Mr. Lemoen’s white Nissan approaching at a high rate of speed. He looked back to Mike’s car and saw that Mike’s response to the hooting was to stop his car. Mr. Visser then took a quick look at his surroundings, noting that there were no other cars on the road, neither north- nor southbound, and then, before he could take note of anything else, Mr. Lemoen’s car’s tyres began to screech…and then the white Nissan impacted the silver Honda, sending the it sliding into a spin.

When the Honda came to a stop, spun more than 200 degrees to the left, the right front wheel and tyre were missing. Once the car came to a halt, Mike undid his seatbelt and with not even checking his own condition, ran immediately to the stopped Nissan and inquired as to the condition of the occupants. Mr. Visser, a coloured man, had already exited his vehicle and was en route to the stopped Nissan when he heard the occupants of the white Nissan begin to hurl invective at Mike, calling him names that qualify in this day and age as “hate speech.” Mr. Visser turned away from the white Nissan and approached Mike, who had retreated from the Lemoens’ verbal onslaught, to inquire as to his condition.

Within seconds of the collision, Mike had called the police and then his insurance company to request an ambulance. The woman in Mr. Lemoen’s car was bleeding from a cut on her forehead, a cut that, according to Mr. Visser, had not prevented her from exiting the vehicle and soundly cursing at Mike, using smutty and racially offensive language. Mike and Mr. Visser, both non-white gentlemen, recoiled from the offensive language, Mike to call his wife and Mr. Visser to join his wife in the red bakkie.

The woman in Mr. Lemoen’s car returned to the front seat. Mike, unaware that even the smallest forehead or scalp wounds usually bleed profusely, was alarmed at her bleeding, but fearful of his safety after how the Lemoens had addressed him, remained with his car. Soon the emergency vehicles arrived and, immediately behind them, Mike’s wife.

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