The Department of Transport has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), which will reduce the number of times motorists will have to spend waiting in queues, says Transport minister Fikile Mbalula.
Addressing media at an event in Midrand on Thursday (7 October), Mbalula said that the agreement would allow motorists to use private optometrists who will have the authority to upload eye test results directly to the eNatis system.
This means that motorists will no longer have to wait for an open eye test machine when applying for a new licence or renewal. The minister said that this new feature will be officially rolled out to driving licence centres around the country shortly.
He said that the Department of Transport has also opened two new licencing centres in Centurion and Midrand, which will free up to an additional 35,380 licence renewal slots in Gauteng.
“The opening of these centres is a prelude to more services that will be introduced to streamline service delivery and improve efficiency. In the coming months, the electronic payment gateway on the online application platform will be operational.
“First National Bank has been appointed as our preferred banking partner for this purpose, and work to roll out the service is at an advanced stage.”
A separate initiative will see two buses fitted with state of the art equipment to serve as mobile centres to assist with licence renewals. These buses will initially be deployed in Diepsloot and Alexandra, Mbalula said.
Concerns over new deadline
While the government is introducing new initiatives to reduce the country’s driver’s licence backlog, Mbalula said he is concerned that not enough motorists are taking advantage of the extended grace period for licence renewals.
In August, the minister said that the validity of licences that expired between 26 March and 31 August 2021 would be extended to the end of March 2022. This applies to learner’s permits, driving licences, temporary driving licences and professional driver’s permits.
Mbalula said that the decision was made to extend the deadline date as drivers across the country have faced several challenges in applying for their licence renewals due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that driver licence testing centres are experiencing massive capacity problems and corruption from officials looking for bribes. This has exacerbated long-standing issues like the unavailability of online systems and faulty equipment at testing centres, leading to long delays.
“We are particularly concerned with the low number of motorists who are taking advantage of the extension of the validity period. Since the extension of the validity period, only 38,619 motorists have renewed their licences,” Mbalula said.
“This leaves us with a backlog of 633,800 expired driving licences that are yet to be renewed.”