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Family of man killed by reach stacker can now sue RAF for damages

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The reach stacker, a vehicle used for handling cargo containers in terminals or ports, is a motor vehicle as contemplated in the Road Accident Fund (RAF) Act, the Supreme Court of Appeal held on Monday.

It dismissed an appeal by the RAF against an order of the full bench of the Western Cape High Court in February last year, which held that the reach stacker is a motor vehicle.

Simphiwe Robert Makutoana was at the multipurpose terminal at Cape Town harbour, where he was employed as a stevedore, when a reach stacker collided with him in 2010.

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Makutoana died as a result of the injuries he sustained.

His wife Thandiswa Linah Mbele instituted action for loss of support in the high court against the fund for the payment of damages incurred by her and their four minor children.

The fund disputed liability and alleged, among others, that the reach stacker was not a vehicle as defined in the RAF Act.

Judge Siraj Desai originally determined that it was not a vehicle as contemplated in the RAF Act and dismissed Mbele’s claim.

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Mbele was granted leave to appeal to the full bench of the high court, which found that it was indeed a motor vehicle.

The RAF then appealed to the SCA.

In a unanimous judgment by the full bench written by judge of appeal Dumisani Zondi, the court dismissed the RAF’s appeal with costs.

Zondi said the RAF Act defined a “motor vehicle” as “any vehicle designed or adapted for propulsion or haulage on a road by means of fuel, gas or electricity, including a trailer, a caravan, an agricultural or any other implement designed or adapted to be drawn by such motor vehicle”.

Zondi said the definition displayed three requirements before a vehicle qualified as a motor vehicle for purposes of the RAF Act.

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“The vehicle (a) must be propelled by fuel, electricity or gas and (b) must be designed for propulsion (c) on a road. Such a vehicle includes a trailer, caravan or implements designed to be drawn by a motor vehicle as defined,” said Zondi.

He said it was clear from its features that the reach stacker was propelled by means of diesel fuel and transported containers on roads within the port premises.

“It is fitted with all the controls and features required to be fitted to a motor vehicle so as to enable it to be used with safety on a road outside the container yard and port terminal where it primarily operates.”

Zondi said because of its operation on Transnet premises, the reach stacker was required to be registered and was registered for use on public roads in terms of the National Road Traffic Act. TimesLIVE

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