Big push to scrap 5-year driving licence in South Africa

 ·13 Jul 2022

Civil society group Afriforum has announced legal action against the requirement to renew driving license cards every five years in South Africa.

The group said that it plans to have the issue heard in court and has requested members of the public to contact the organisation if they have recently been punished or fined because of the Department of Transport’s failures because they have been driving without a renewed driving licence card.

This information can be added to its legal application and thus strengthen AfriForum’s case, it said.

AfriForum said that its application rests on several legal and practical grounds:

  • Legal: From a legal perspective, Afrifroum said the National Road Traffic Act and regulations are too vague to be enforceable. The legislation does not clearly distinguish between a “driver’s licence” and a “driver’s licence card”. It also does not explicitly stipulate those motorists must apply for a new driving licence card when the card expires. It does not even stipulate that it is a crime to drive with an expired driving license card and does not prescribe any fine, penalty or sanctions.
  • Practical: In terms of practical reasons, Afrifroum said the Department of Transport’s well-known failures make it impossible and irrational to require motorists to renew their driver’s license cards every five years. In addition, many other countries allow much longer periods between driver’s licence card renewals and in some countries driver’s licenses are valid indefinitely.

“We know that more than 40,000 fines were issued in May alone to motorists who drove vehicles without valid driving license cards.

“If some of these motorists, who due to the Department of Transport’s poor service delivery could not renew their licenses, can contact us it will significantly strengthen AfriForum’s case against the five-year renewal period of driving license cards,” said Reiner Duvenage, campaign officer for strategy and content at AfriForum.

10-year proposal

In February 2022, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said that a team at the Road Traffic Management Corporation would compile a report on a proposal to extend the validity of driver’s licence cards to 10 years.

The report, which was due at the end of April, would focus on how extending licences to 10 years could impact safety and revenue, he said.

BusinessTech asked the transport department for an update on the report and any plans to extend licence validity, but it did not return comment by the time of publication.

Groups like the Automobile Association  (AA) and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) have for years urged the government to extend the validity period of driving licences from five to 10 years as a way of dealing more effectively with renewals.

Among the proposal, these groups have said:

  • That an extension for driver’s license renewal be applied from 5 to 10 years;
  • The extension from 5 to 10 years applies between the ages of 18 to 65 years;
  • That more efficient online application processes for DL renewals precede the actual renewal, to allow for more effective service delivery and flow between appointment, eye test and licence delivery;
  • Multiple methods for DL renewal are made available through test centres and reputable service providers, i.e. stronger collaboration with neutral, third party organisations such as the AA;
  • That current restrictions applicable to Professional Driver’s Permits either remain the same, or are possibly extended as well, but that this decision be based on more extensive research and the inclusion of input from bussing and tourism role players.

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