By Myles Illidge for MyBroadband
The Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA) expects to clear the card printing backlog by end-June 2022 — two months earlier than transport minister Fikile Mbalula had promised.
According to the DLCA, the backlog currently sits at 550 000 cards, and it is running two 12 hour shifts to clear it.
“The current production backlog is 550 000, which is based on orders that are in the queue for production,” a DLCA spokesperson told MyBroadband.
“It is estimated that this backlog will be cleared by the end of June 2022.”
Mbalula had previously said that his department and the DLCA would clear the backlog by September 2022.
The spokesperson specified that the 550 000-card backlog only referred to those for which renewal applications had already been submitted.
It does not include all expired licence cards in the country.
The spokesperson said that the breakdown of the printing machine in November 2021 had further exacerbated the backlog caused by Covid-19 by piling on another 640000 cards. This has since been dealt with.
“The challenge occurred as a result of the machine breakdown in November 2021; however, the DLCA has put in place two 12 hour shifts in order to triple production capacity and deal with the backlog,” the spokesperson stated.
“The Driving License Card Account has managed to clear the backlog of 640 000, which resulted from the machine breakdown in November 2021. Since January 2022, the DLCA has printed over 1-million driving cards,” they add.
The backlog of driving licence cards initially formed due to South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown, during which many cards expired and holders couldn’t apply to renew.
Mbalula issued emergency regulations creating a grace period for licence cards that expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021.
He then extended the grace period to 31 March 2022 to allow and encourage those who hadn’t applied to submit their renewal applications.
However, South Africa’s only driving licence card printing machine broke down when a power surge caused by flooding in an adjacent building damaged it.
As of 31 March 2022, there was still a significant backlog of cards to be printed, and applications to be submitted.
As a result, Mbalula extended the grace period twice more. The final deadline was 5 May 2022.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) raised concerns that traffic police could extort motorists who had applied to renew their licence, but hadn’t received it yet due to the backlog.
“If there is no further extension, millions of South Africans will be forced to operate a vehicle on a public road with an expired driver’s license card and may run the risk of being issued a traffic fine of up to R2 000,” Outa said.
“Outa contends that issuing a fine under the above circumstances is unlawful and that the motorist has a defence if ever prosecuted.”
Outa’s executive director for accountability, Stefanie Fick, recommended that motorists document their dealings with the authorities to avoid such fines.
“A driver must always keep a record of his or her interactions with the authorities. Keep a detailed record (date, time and places) of all your attempts to obtain a new driver’s license card and, where possible, take photos and voice recordings of events,” she said.
Mbalula has reaffirmed that his department was working on a new driving licence card on several occasions. However, the new card system pilot has been delayed until October 2023.