The further extension of the validity period of driver’s licenses that expired during the Covid-19 lockdowns has been very well received, but doubts have been expressed about the ability of other announced measures to reduce the massive backlog of driver’s license renewals. .
Automobile Association (AA) spokesman Layton Beard said that extending the validity period of all licenses until the end of March 2022 is a welcome step, but the AA remains concerned that the measures will not be implemented at time for people with expired documents to renew them. them.
“Our concern is that the deadlines are tight and that many motorists may be stranded without the necessary renovations, forcing another extension in March 2022,” he said.
Wayne Duvenage, executive director of the organization Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), said the organization does not believe that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula had any other option than to extend the validity of driver’s licenses.
However, he pointed out that the backlog and the wave of people who need to renew their expired licenses is increasing.
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“It is granting a six-month extension to people who have not renewed their licenses, some of them until six months or a year ago, which creates a snowball effect. The wave just gets bigger, ”Duvenage said.
“It is a nightmare and we hope they address the underlying issues.
“If they don’t fix corruption, inefficiencies, poor service delivery, equipment, and a combination of so much more, we will be sitting here in March 2022 with the same problem,” he said.
Beard said the total population of 13.5 million vehicle license holders must renew their licenses every five years, which means that apart from any delays, 2.7 million driver license holders have to renew their licenses. every year.
However, Mbalula said on Friday: “We believe that within the time frame that we have set ourselves, we should be in a position to have addressed all the delays that we actually face in the system.”
Grace in the middle of the mess
Mbalula announced that all learner’s licenses, driver’s license cards, temporary driver’s licenses, and professional driving licenses that expire during the period beginning March 26, 2020 through August 31, 2021 inclusive “are considered valid. and their validity periods are extended by an additional grace period ending on March 31, 2022 ”.
He confirmed that at the national level, 42.4% or 1.2 million licenses have not yet been renewed out of a total of 2.8 million that have expired since March 26, 2020.
Mbalula said Gauteng represents the largest number of licenses that have yet to be renewed, 437,819 out of a total of 980,038 that expired in this period.
“We remain concerned about this long delay, as it has an adverse impact on effective law enforcement,” Mbalula said.
“However, we are more concerned about the reasons that give rise to this state of affairs.”
According to the minister, these include:
Capacity challenges that put enormous pressure on DLTCs in processing driver license renewals.
Corruption of the officials in charge of the system, where the online reservation is used, who block the slots and sell them to those willing to pay bribes.
Low speed and unavailability of the eNatis system (Electronic Traffic Information of the National Administration), which generates frustrations for officials and motorists who renew their licenses.
Faulty live capture units leading to long queues at DLTCs.
Defective eye test equipment.
Delays in validating fingerprints as live capture units are not tied to the Department of the Interior in real time.
Mbalula emphasized that the additional extension was due to the finding that the problem of motorists circulating when their licenses have expired is largely not a problem caused by motorists but “a problem with the system.”
“The most important thing is to change the driver’s license regime.
“It has not collapsed but I am not going to lie to you, it is a disaster,” Mbalula said.
“It is something that is easy to fix and we must fix. I use the word ‘reboot’ “.
Mbalula announced a series of interventions to resolve capacity and other issues at DLTCs.
He said that Gauteng poses the greatest challenge due to the large population of motorists and the fact that it remains the only province that has widely implemented the online reservation system.
Specific actions have been identified to address Gauteng’s specific challenges, including the unavailability of online reservation spaces for those intending to renew their licenses.
Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) CEO Makhosini Msibi said challenges to the online reservation system in Gauteng were caused by corruption in the DLTCs, the “no-shows” of people who had reserved spaces in more than one DLTC and DLTC closing due to Covid-19 related issues.
To deal with corruption and the sale of reserved spaces, Msibi said the spaces will be centralized online and released by the RTMC – and not the DLTCs – starting on September 1 “to eliminate the human element.”
He said a punitive measure will be introduced for “no-shows” to reserve spaces, and “no-shows” will lose the money they paid online to secure the space.
Gauteng Roads and Transportation MEC Jacob Mamabolo said the province appointed a forensic investigation firm to tackle corruption in the DLTCs a month ago.
He said that the province has given the research company “a good period to delve into this matter.”
“We have told investigators that they must act on each case once they have completed it and have [must] have evidence that can stand the test of scrutiny, “said Mamabolo.
“They shouldn’t wait to complete in six months and publish a report.”
Other measures announced to address the delay in DLTCs include:
Increase DLTC’s capacity by opening two RTMC-operated DLTCs at Waterfall Park in Midrand and Eco Park in Centurion on October 1; These will operate seven days a week from 7 am to 9 pm, adding 35,380 renovation spaces per month and increasing Gauteng’s capacity for renovation spaces by 48%.
Activation of an email service for Gauteng users experiencing difficulties with online reservations and license renewal.
The establishment of a new DLTC in Tembisa, which opened in July.
The conditioning by the RTMC of two buses with state-of-the-art equipment that serve as mobile assistance centers in the renewal of licenses; They are scheduled to be deployed to Diepsloot and Alexandra on October 1.
Introducing online payments through a banking partner.
Plans to extend the hours of operation of the DLTCs, with the hours of operation of the large registration authorities and DLTCs in seven of the nine provinces already expanded to include Saturday.
A plan to allow motorists to use private optometrists who will have the authority to upload eye test results directly to the eNatis system.
Completion of a Live Enrollment Units interface with Home Affairs, which will allow immediate fingerprint validation and address a challenge that has been delayed.
Address end-user equipment shortage in DLTCs.