Problem for South Africa’s new driving licences

 ·16 May 2024

South African drivers have been left in limbo regarding the long-awaited implementation of new driving licence cards, with the Department of Transport quietly missing its April deadline.

The Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, said on 10 April that her department was at the “tail-end” of the process of procuring a new printing machine for the cards from France which would be printing hundreds of new licences before the end of April.

“Before the end of this month, we will be printing new driving licences (cards) and will launch at least the first 100 per province, as we have said. We are moving in that regard,” said Chikunga.

However, neither Chikunga nor her department have confirmed the arrival or installation of a new printer, or the printing of any new cards, following the passing of another extended deadline.

BusinessTech has repeatedly contacted numerous communications and media relations employees in the department of transport over the past few weeks for updates, however has not received anything other than one acknowledgement of query in return.

MyBroadband has also repeatedly attempted to contact the department, but to the same ill fate.

The tender for the procurement of the printer has been repeatedly published and withdrawn since at least November 2021.

Back in 2022, Chikunga’s predecessor, Fikile Mbalula, said that the pilot period for the new cards would run from November 2023 to March 2024.

These deadlines were ultimately missed, with Chikunga acknowledging in January 2024 that the tender for the printer had not been awarded.

Reasons for a new machine

For more than 25 years, South Africa has depended on a single printer for its card production needs, a process that takes an average of 14 working days to complete just one card.

This inefficient process, along with the printer’s advanced age, has led to frequent malfunctions, resulting in a significant backlog of licence renewal applications—reaching a peak of 1.3 million between 2022 and 2023.

To tackle these challenges, a new, faster machine was issued for tender, which would capable of producing multiple cards daily.

Furthermore, the Department of Transport said that it will use this opportunity to roll out updated licences equipped with advanced security features.

Tender documents from November 2021 detail the specifications for the new card.

It will feature the driver’s name, gender, date of birth, ID number, and licence details (issuance date, code, licence number, and validity period) on the front, similar to the previous version. Additionally, the licence holder’s photo and signature will be displayed on the front.

The card will be crafted from 100% polycarbonate, incorporating advanced security features such as a secondary engraved image of the holder, micro text, and tactile elements.

Security enhancements also include a background overlapping the holder’s image, with the card’s serial number presented in barcode form and a QR code on the back, alongside a ghost image.

This will make it far more difficult to illegally modify or create counterfeit cards.

Furthermore, they will be compliant with the International Information Technology Personal Identification Compliant Driving Licence (ISO18013) standard and subsequently be valid in countries outside South Africa.

In addition to its updated design, the new driver’s licence will have a longer validity period of eight years instead of the current five, reducing the frequency of driving licence testing centre (DLTC) visits for motorists.

However, this is lower than the average validity of international licence cards, which is around 10 years.

Organisations like the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) have repeatedly called for the validity to be extended further.

Read: The most expensive province for car licences in South Africa

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