Licence extension welcome but remedial measures must be actioned now, says AA
Interventions announced on Friday by transport minister Fikile Mbalula to deal with problems relating to driving licence renewals are welcomed and indicate real progress in resolving challenges faced by motorists throughout the country.
The Automobile Association (AA) said the extension of the validity period of all licences to the end of March 2022 is also a welcome step, but it remains concerned that the measures may not be implemented in time for those with expired documents to renew them.
Mbalula announced that all licences — learner’s licences, driving licences, professional driving permits and temporary licences — which expired between March 26 2020 and August 31 2021 will be valid until the end of March next year.
The minister noted a lack of capacity at driving licence testing centres (DLTCs), corruption, the slow speed and unavailability of the National Traffic Information System (NaTIS), faulty live-capture units (for fingerprints and ID verification) and faulty eye-testing machines as the main challenges facing the centres in the provision of adequate services.
“We are naturally happy that many of the solutions we have been proposing have been considered," said the AA.
“Among these is the establishment of more DLTCs, the introduction of mobile centres and kiosks at busy centres, extended operating hours of the DLTCs, the ability of DLTCs to accept online payments and the submission of eye tests by optometrists directly to NaTIS. This all makes sense and will hopefully ease pressure on the system. But now it is all a question of implementation.”
In addition, the minister noted planned improvements to the online booking system in Gauteng. The AA said this is long overdue and must be done as a matter of urgency.
According to Mbalula, there is a backlog of 2.8-million licences which need to be renewed nationally, but that only 1.2-million renewals have so far been processed. This means 42% of licences must still be renewed. This is in addition to motorists who require renewals which accrue monthly.
“The minister again noted that the problem is not with motorists but with the DLTCs. This is significant as it acknowledges that the system is the problem, not motorists,” said the AA.
“The interventions he has announced must now be put in motion. Our concern is that the time frames are tight and that many motorists may be stranded without the necessary renewals, forcing yet another extension in March.”