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Would-be drivers & driving school staff champ at bit for centres to reopen

29 May 2020 - 12:16 By Andisiwe Michelle May
Licence and testing centres, registering authorities, vehicle testing stations and driving schools resume their services from June 1 2020 subject to the implementation of hygiene, disinfection control and social distancing measures.
Licence and testing centres, registering authorities, vehicle testing stations and driving schools resume their services from June 1 2020 subject to the implementation of hygiene, disinfection control and social distancing measures.
Image: 123rf.com/HONGQI ZHANG

As the country prepares to move to level 3 of the phased lockdown, aspirant drivers expressed mixed reactions at being able to take driving tests during the global pandemic.

The green light was given by minister of transport Fikile Mbalula on May 22 during his visit to the Centurion Driving Licensing Testing Centre (DTLC) where he announced that DLTCs, registering authorities and vehicle testing stations will resume their services from June 1 2020 subject to hygiene, disinfection control and social distancing measures.

“No person will be allowed to enter a driving licence testing centre, registering authority, vehicle testing station or driving school without a face mask, or a homemade mask that covers the nose and mouth” said Mbalula.

Mzi Meyi, instructor of MDs driving school in Cape Town, says his company has been affected by the pandemic and he was relieved when driving schools were permitted to operate under level 4 of the lockdown, subject to social distancing and sanitising measures.

“We've been affected badly because we couldn't claim from the UIF. The company is registered but not for UIF. But we have been operating since the start of level 4, we have protective gear such as masks, sanitiser and gloves to keep our clients safe,” he said.

With some eager clients who have been waiting to get their licences, Meyi says he is happy with the reopening of testing centres and feels that the safety measures in place are sufficient.

“Social distancing is not going to be a problem as we take one client at a time, we're making appointments with our clients and are also not under pressure, as the traffic department gave extensions on the dates.”

“I am excited and a bit nervous. I have been taking lessons before lockdown but had to stop. But since Mzi started operating again, we went back at it. I am confident that I am ready to be a legal driver,” a client said.

“I had hoped that I would get my licence before lockdown so that I can apply for jobs as an unemployed graduate,” said Minenhle Kunene. “It is so frustrating because most jobs require a licence, and I am scared I will be further delayed in getting it once services resume, because it might be difficult to get a test date,” the 25-year-old said.

Kunene, who lives in a Covid-19 hotspot, eThekwini, says while there is much pressure to obtain her licence, her safety comes first.

“A lot of job adverts require you to have a licence and that puts pressure on a lot of graduates. But while getting one is important, I am scared for my life. The one thing I want badly besides a job could be the reason I put my whole family's life at risk,” she said.

In a media statement released on Tuesday, the member of the mayoral committee for safety and security for Cape Town, JP Smith, said there was much for the city to consider about the safety of clients and staff members.

“DLTCs are arguably among the busiest city spaces, which mean that extra care and attention needs to be placed on the protocols to ensure that we are able to deliver a service with as little risk as possible,” he said.

The city says it will only open doors when it is completely satisfied that all necessary health and safety measures are in place.

Julian Pillay, national director of the Vehicle Testing Association (VTA), an association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), said VTA members, which represent testing stations nationally, have indicated to their various provincial departments of transport that they have implemented safety measures and will be ready to resume operations.

“An important point to bear in mind is that test station users of the Natis system have not accessed Natis in more than nine weeks. There may therefore be delays at some stations during the first few days while all the Natis users are reinstated. It is best to contact your local test station to make sure that they are online, or contact your regional RMI office first to check if their local testing station is open. Numbers for the regional RMI offices can be found on the RMI website,” he says.

Some provinces have already conducted physical inspections to ensure compliance and have received guidelines detailing conditions under which vehicle testing can take place. This includes limitations on the amount of vehicles to be tested daily.