New driving licence for South Africa coming soon

 ·19 Jun 2023

The Department of Transport says that South Africa’s new driving licences will be launched before the end of the current financial year. This puts the launch window sometime before the end of March 2024.

The DLCA has previously indicated that the new licence will be aligned closer to international practices, with the new card also allowing for the incorporation of new technologies.

A new driving licence card in South Africa will have improved security features, including biometric data, holograms, and watermarks, to reduce fraudulent licences and improve road safety.

The current driving licence cards will be phased out, with the printing machine that produces them expected to be decommissioned in 2023.

This is particularly notable as South Africa currently only has one printing machine, which has just returned to service after yet another three-week downtime for maintenance.

The downtime has led to another backlog in processing driving licences, with about 350,000 cards now needing to be processed. The machine processes around 120,000 cards a week.

A new system will be introduced with driving licence cards linked to smart-card technology. 

The department confirmed at the end of 2022 that it was working towards a pilot of the new licences between 1 November 2023 and 31 March 2024, while the extension of the validity of the cards was also coming.

The department previously suggested that the current five-year validity of driving licences could be extended to eight years. Current cards will continue to be recognised as valid until 31 March 2029.

Digital driving licences

The timelines for the new driving licences align with the department’s annual performance plan for the current financial year, with plans for launching another ‘digital’ driving licence in the same window.

The department plans to roll out virtual cards and automate driving license application processes over the next three years until 2025/26.

Digital driving licences for South Africa were first mentioned by former transport minister Fikile Mbalula in 2022, when he announced that the department would officially launch the system in the 2024/25 financial year, with the card formally known as a mobile or electronic driver’s licence (eDL).

With the introduction of the eDL, motorists will have an option to apply for a physical card and electronic driver’s licence that will be accessible through a motorist’s mobile phone.

The DLCA has previously indicated that introducing an electronic licence is now possible due to increased mobile broadband penetration across the country.

Read: Big changes for driving licences in South Africa

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