By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has announced that government will extend the deadline for driver licence renewals in South Africa.
The validity of licences that expired between 26 March and 31 August 2021 will now be extended to 31 March 2022, the minister said.
This applies to learner’s permits, driving licences, temporary driving licences and professional driver’s permits.
In a media briefing on Friday (27 August), Mbalula said that drivers across the country have faced a number of challenges in applying for their licence renewals due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the licence deadline has been extended a number of times over the last year, Mbalula said that nationally 1.2 million licences are not yet renewed out of a total of 2.8 million expired licences – equivalent to a 42% non-renewal rate.
He said that driver licence testing centres are facing massive capacity problems, as well as corruption from officials who are looking to take bribes. This has exacerbated long-standing problems like the unavailability of online systems, as well as faulty equipment at testing centres, which has also led to delays.
The opposition Democratic Alliance has proposed an overhaul to South Africa’s driving licence system, which grapples with corruption and inefficiencies.
Due to an ineffective online booking system, broken eye testing and fingerprinting machines, reduced capacity in Driver Licence Testing Centres due to Covid-19 restrictions, and corruption, motorists cannot secure bookings in time to renew their driver licences before the 31 August deadline, it said.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation’s (RTMC) has also acknowledged a backlog of 500,000 licences waiting in the system, it said.
To address these and other issues, the DA has proposed the following:
- Allow special after-hours and weekend services for PrDP (Professional Driving Permit)applicants.
- Allow Gauteng drivers to renew their driver’s licences anywhere in the country.
- Immediately allow Gauteng motorists to renew licences at the following surrounding towns: Emalahleni, Delmas, Leandra, Evander, Secunda, Balfour, Sasolburg, Parys, Ventersdorp, Hartbeespoort, Brits, Bela-Bela, Rustenburg, Potchefstroom and Standerton.
- Provide online applications where drivers can pay their application fees and fill out all forms electronically before visiting a DLTC.
- Allow applicants to submit eye tests for the tests to be evaluated in their absence (e.g. after-hours). They must only be called for another visit (eye test) if the eye test submitted is unsatisfactory.
- Increase the number of eye testers at DTLCs to provide faster service and to accommodate more slots daily.
- Reduce the response time to repair eye testing machines.
- Allow reputable chains and practices (such as optometrists, banks, supermarkets, etc.) to provide the renewal of driver’s licences on an agency basis.
- Conduct an audit into whether all available slots are being communicated to the RTMC by licence testing centres and whether all slots provided to the RTMC are indeed logged onto the eNatis system.
- Allow for the booking system to prioritise licences that are overdue for renewal.
- Extend the term for driver’s licence renewals to a longer-term (e.g.7 or 10 years).
Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) is also proposing is to extend the period of validity for renewed driving licences from five to 10 years, which is a process applied in many countries around the world.