Driver licence headache for South Africa

The City of Cape Town has urged motorists to apply for their driver licence periods ahead of the March deadline date – or risk facing increased queues and possible fines.

The Department of Transport has indicated that there will be no further extensions of the deadline which was introduced to compensate for the closure of Driving License Testing Centres during the hard lockdown.

Originally, the validity of driving license cards that expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2020 was extended to December 2021. An additional extension was then granted to the end of March 2022 for all licence cards that expired between March 2020 and 31 August 2021. All indications are that there will be no further extensions.

“Considering how many extensions have been granted, one would assume that most motorists would have renewed their licenses by now,” said the city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.

“For those who haven’t, you are running out of time, and missing the deadline will incur the additional cost of a temporary license when you do apply, but also the risk of being fined for driving without a valid licence,” he said.

However, civil society group Outa has warned that hundreds of thousands of motorists are still struggling to have their expired driving licence cards renewed, and that a further extension of the grace period may be necessary. It has also urged the government to extend the validity period for the cards from five years to 10 years.

“In 2020, there was a backlog of about 320,000 driving licence card renewals due, with demand growing by 90,000 a month. The backlog has grown over the last two years, partly due to Covid-19 shutdowns, and hundreds of thousands of motorists face a deadline of 31 March; others caught in the backlog were not granted an extension.

“Outa believes that approximately 2.8 million driver’s licence card renewal applications have been affected by the backlog, with possibly half of those motorists now with expired cards. Minister Mbalula recently announced there would be no extension.”

In Gauteng in particular, motorists have struggled to access the electronic system to book a slot to get their licences renewed.  The government’s new online payment facility for car licence discs and driver’s licence card renewals has been riddled with technical issues, MyBroadband reports.

The system allows motorists to renew and pay for their vehicle licence discs, driver’s licence cards, and vehicle registration documents online. Barely a day after going live, the website went offline for several days.

While it has since become available, many complaints from users online suggest that it is having significant teething problems.

Motorists have complained about the system, particularly about a lack of communication following payment for disc renewals.

In an emailed response to one of these complaints, the RTMC admitted the vehicle licence renewal service was experiencing “challenges”, including a delay in printing paid licence discs.

Consumer sentiment gauging platform Hellopeter was also filled with bad reviews about the system.


Read: Government is looking at scrapping the 5-year driving licence in South Africa

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Driver licence headache for South Africa