Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has confirmed that government plans to introduce a digital driver’s licence within the next three years.
Responding in a recent written parliamentary Q&A, Mbalula said the licence is scheduled to officially launch in the 2024/25 financial year and will formally be known as a mobile or electronic driver licence (eDL).
He added that the project is being spearheaded by the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA) which is the trading entity responsible for the production of driving licence cards in South Africa.
Mbalula said the digital licence will be preceded by the introduction of the new driving licence card which is set to be launched in October 2023, which will also form the basis of the new licence design. The design for the new driving licence card has been completed and is now undergoing the cabinet approval process, he said.
With the introduction of the eDL, the motorist will have an option to apply for a physical card and electronic driver’s licence which will be accessible through a motorist’s mobile phone.
The DLCA has previously indicated that the introduction of an electronic licence is now possible due to increased mobile broadband penetration across the country.
The planned introduction of a digital licence comes as South Africa continues to grapple with a significant licence backlog and errors that plague the current system.
The national Covid-19 lockdown imposed on the country in 2020 and 2021 forced licencing centres to close, resulting in a massive backlog of expired vehicle and driving licences.
This was compounded after the country’s only licence printing machine broke down at the end of 2021, leaving approximately half a million South African motorists stuck with expired driving licence cards.
Mbalula had previously extended expired licences to 31 March 2022 due to delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic which meant motorists could not visit licensing centres. This grace period covered all documents which expired in the period between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021.