Massive driver licence backlog as renewal deadline looms

Opposition parties and motoring groups have called for an extension of South Africa’s 31 August driver licence deadline, citing concerns around the ‘broken’ booking system.

The validity of licences that expired between 26 March and 31 December 2020 was extended until 31 August 2021 to assist those motorists in renewing their licences when they could not do so during the lockdowns of 2020.

The opposition Democratic Alliance said that the rush to renew licences over the last few weeks has led to panic, delays, and a major backlog.

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.

“An extension will allow more time for motorists to obtain license renewal slots, especially in light of the Road Traffic Management Corporation’s (RTMC) acknowledgement that there is a backlog of 500,000 licences.

“This extension is indispensable as the current backlog cannot be eradicated in the next two weeks.”

The DA has also called for the scrapping of the online booking system to combat corruption and allow motorists to use DLTCs as walk-in centres.

It further warned that motorists face the real possibility of becoming illegal drivers and have their vehicle insurance lapse if they cannot renew their driver’s licences by the end of August 2021.

The government has acknowledged that there are problems at the Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs), which renew these documents, the Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa said.

“Yet, despite this, no further extensions will be considered, meaning people are at the mercy of a broken system.

“These problems persist and will continue to persist until the government takes a bold decision to replace – not repair or revamp – the current IT systems along with increased human resources at DTLCs,” said the AA.

Delays and tips 

The City of Cape Town said that its customer offices, including the motor vehicle licensing offices, may experience longer queues this month, due to the 2020 licence renewal extensions that are coming to an end.

“Motorists should bear in mind that it takes approximately four weeks for online applications, which includes the processing, as well as dispatch by the South African Post Office,” it said.

“Residents are encouraged to plan their visit to their customer office ahead of time, and to check with the office if they are open.”

It added that customer offices are subject to rapid closures due to Covid-19 regulations when required.

When an office closes after a positive Covid-19 case has been detected, all health and safety regulations and protocols are adhered to in order to make the office safe for members of the public.

Below it outlined the following tips:

  • Plan for a turnaround time of approximately four weeks currently from application to receipt of the licence when applying online via e-Services;
  • Customers are reminded that fines are nationally determined and the city may not unilaterally write off fines. The city does not have the power to grant extensions. This is nationally determined;
  • If customers must visit a customer office in person, please remember that there is Covid-19 screening at the entrances and a limited number of customers are allowed in at a time due to Covid-19 regulations. Social distancing is required and must be adhered to and masks are compulsory;
  • Motorists only need their ID for motor vehicle licensing renewals;
  • Motorists are reminded that they are not allowed to drive an unlicensed vehicle or a vehicle where a valid licence disc is not displayed;
  • Motorists are further reminded to update their cell phone numbers and email addresses when applying and paying for their licences online and at licensing offices as they will be receiving renewal reminders via their cell phones or email addresses;
  • Senior citizens, pregnant and disabled customers are urged to move to the front of the queue where they will be assisted as soon as possible.

Read: South Africa’s driving licence system is broken – with these extensions ending in August

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Massive driver licence backlog as renewal deadline looms