New driving licence card planned for South Africa in 2022

The government is considering the adoption of a new driving licence in 2022, including a redesign of the current licence card to a plastic one, from the current laminated version.

Speaking at a media briefing at the end of December, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said that plans for a new ‘smart card’ would be submitted to the cabinet for approval in early 2022. It would then be presented to the public, he said.

Mbalula has previously said that the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA) was in the final phase of designing a new driving licence card, with a proposal expected to be made before the end of the 2021/2022 financial year.

The DLCA, the sole producer of licences in South Africa, has said that the new licence will be aligned closer to international practices, adding that a new card allows for the incorporation of new technology and would include a design change.

“The introduction of the new driving licence involves a new design of the driving licence card and the re-engineering of processes to allow for agility and focus on delivering services efficiently and quickly. The project will allow for the adoption of digital technologies such as blockchain and other related technologies which will form the platform an integrated transport system,” it said.

Electronic driver’s licence

The DLCA has also indicated that it is considering the implementation of a new electronic driver’s licence – although this will likely only be mooted once the updated physical card has been introduced.

“The changes to the card production environment will lay the foundation for the introduction of a mobile or e-driving licence (e-DL). With the introduction of the e-DL, the motorist will have an option to apply for a physical card and electronic driver’s licence,” the DLCA said in its 2021/2022 annual performance plan.

The group added that introducing an electronic licence is now possible due to increased mobile broadband penetration across the country.

“According to an Icasa report on the state of the ICT sector, the total number of 4G/LTE device subscribers in South Africa in 2018 was over 12.6 million. The report also found that South Africa has an 81.72% smartphone penetration.” Because of this, the DLCA said it anticipates that the adoption and issuance of an e-licence would become more popular over time.

Ongoing chaos

While an updated driver’s licence would be welcome news, the current system is currently in the spotlight amid reports of ongoing technical issues.

A report by Afrikaans newspaper Rapport on Sunday (2 January) indicated that at least 383,000 pending licence cards had not been printed due to a breakdown that began more than a month ago.

South Africa only has one machine able to print driving licence cards to avoid giving corrupt officials the opportunity to flood the country with fraudulent driver’s licences, said Layton Beard, the spokesperson of the Automobile Association of South Africa.

Beard told Newzroom Afrika that even though the Department of Transport has been proactive in rooting out corruption at Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs), problems continue.

“You don’t want to have a situation where the printing of licence cards is farmed out to the DLTCs,” stated Beard. “You may find yourself in a worse position in terms of illegal driving licence cards that are in circulation.”

The Department of Transport requires motorists to pay R90 for a temporary driving permit until their new licence is printed in response to the delay.

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.

10-year validity period

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse agrees that South Africa’s archaic driver’s licensing system needs an overhaul.

In a recent 702/Cape Talk interview, Outa chief executive Wayne Duvenage estimated there could be a backlog of 500,000 driver’s licence cards due to the machine’s breakdown.

Duvenage said Outa has already suggested to the transport department that South Africa switch from 5-year driving licences to licences valid for ten years.

“This would alleviate the current backlog overnight,” Duvenage said.

Read: Call to scrap 5-year driving licence in South Africa

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New driving licence card planned for South Africa in 2022