South Africa’s driving licence renewal system continues to frustrate motorists, and “something sinister” may be behind some of the problems.
This is according to Jacob Mamabolo, Gauteng MEC for public transport and roads infrastructure, who was speaking to ENCA about the problems.
Many South Africans are trying to renew their driving licences which expired during the lockdown when the renewal centres were closed.
The Department of Transport published a directive to address the backlog in driver’s licence renewals to offer motorists a grace period.
All driving licence cards that expired between 26 March 2020 and including 31 August 2020 are now valid for a period ending on 31 January 2021.
This grace period gives motorists some relief, but it has also created a backlog in renewals which are now challenging to resolve.
The fact that driving licences which expired after 31 August do not enjoy the same grace period is putting further strain on the system.
The driving licence renewal problems are so severe that the Automobile Association (AA) has called for urgent changes to the process.
The AA has also called for an immediate moratorium on fining motorists without renewed driving licences.
“It’s an absurd situation where motorists cannot renew their discs or cards and are then stopped and fined for not having done so,” the AA said.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) wants Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to change the driver’s licence validity period from five to 10 years.
“This should save the SA consumer and government time and money as well as improve the administration and manageability of the renewal process by the state,” it said.
It also asked for a more efficient online application process for driver’s licence renewals which precedes the actual renewal.
This, OUTA said, will allow for more effective service delivery and flow between the appointment, eye test, and licence delivery.
There is an even bigger concern related to the driving licence renewal system – government officials who hijack the system.
Mamabolo said the online booking system is a big frustration to motorists trying to renew their licences.
The government has subsequently analysed the data, revealing that there is a problem with how officials are managing and handling the allocation of slots.
He said many slots are allocated to services like new driver’s licence applications, but not to drivers’ licence renewals.
“That tells you that the way the officials are allocating slots on the system is not correct as it makes them underperform in renewals,” he said.
He said they are now investigating why officials are deliberately allocating more slots for new driver’s licences.
He dismissed speculation that bad training may be behind the problem, saying it reveals something far more worrying and sinister.
While not directly mentioning corruption, Mamabolo hinted at something “dodgy” going on at driving licence testing centres (DLTCs).
“We need to investigate and check whether there is something sinister to the trend of lower driving licence renewals,” he said.
Most DLTCs are under the control of municipalities, and Mamabolo will now discuss the issue with the respective mayors at these municipalities.
Steps to resolve the problem
Mamabolo assured motorists that they are acting to resolve the problems with driving licence renewals, which include:
Issuing a directive to increase the allocation of driving licence renewal slots.
Commissioning an investigation into potential corruption in the allocation of slots.
Looking at increasing the number DLTCs and explore other options like using mobile facilities.
“What the people are going through is definitely unacceptable,” Mamabolo said.