Civil society group Outa has called on the government to scrap South Africa’s five-year driver licence in favour of a system that will see licences renewed every 10 years.
Outa chief executive Wayne Duvenage told Cape Talk that a change is necessary as the current system has all but collapsed due to ongoing technical issues. Outa estimates that South Africa currently has a backlog of more than 500,000 driving licence cards due to the breakdown of the machinery responsible for printing licences.
He added that the country’s driving licence testing centres continue to be impacted by corruption and administrative issues, resulting in long delays and other problems.
“We need to review and overhaul the entire process when it comes to vehicles, driving licences, vehicle roadworthiness, and how we manage and police this.
‘This has become a mammoth fiasco. It shouldn’t be this difficult to get your driver’s licence; it should be a very easy process. It has been an easy process in the past. Now it’s become so difficult just to get a slot and actually get your licence.”
Duvenage said that introducing a 10-year system would help reduce some of this strain and is already being successfully used in several other countries.
A report by Afrikaans newspaper Rapport on Sunday (2 January) indicated that at least 383,000 pending licence cards have not been printed due to the breakdown as of the start of December, with this number rising significantly in the following weeks.
In response, the Department of Transport requires motorists to pay R90 for a temporary driving permit to continue driving until their new licence is printed.
Robert Chandler, head of the Southern African Institute of Driving Instructors, said at least half a million motorists would be impacted by the breakdown, meaning the department stood to collect around R45 million from these temporary permits.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also led to a significant backlog in licences as testing centres were forced to close for several months due to restrictions.
As a result, the department extended the validity period of learner’s licences, driver’s licence cards, temporary driving permits, and professional driving permits that expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021 to 31 March 2022.