Johannesburg - For a bribe of between R2 500 and R4 300, you can get a learner’s and a driver’s licence from the Randburg Licensing Department, reports GroundUp.
I have been to the offices twice and on both occasions I was offered licences in exchange for bribes.
We were alerted by a tip-off from a Johannesburg man whose wife had failed her learner’s test at the offices three times. At the last booking, was told she could buy a licence for R1 000.
The man said he and his wife had refused the offer, but had noted the name of the official, one Jo.
His full name is known to GroundUp.
I called Jo enquiring about getting a learner’s and driver’s licence. Within minutes a bribe of R1 000 was solicited for a learner’s licence. I was told that a driver’s licence would cost R2 000. The two together could be bought for R2 500.
Jo said the day before he had charged three men R1 500 each for their learner’s licences, but he would do a "favour" for me.
He said he had to pass some of the money on.
While in conversation with me, Jo handed the phone to a client of his called Natalie. She said Jo had charged her R300 for a licence renewal. She said Jo had stopped her in the offices’ parking lot and offered to help her.
"I did everything through Jo. It took me 25 minutes. He's very efficient. When you get here just say, can I speak to Jo. They all know who Jo is."
When Natalie handed the phone back to Jo, she could be overheard saying, "Sjoe, you're a businessman, hey?" She told him she was happy with his service and thanked him.
Jo said bookings for learner’s licence examinations were full until the end of August and even into September, but he could make a plan to include me on a test scheduled for July 5.
He said six other clients who had paid him for a learner's licence would be writing on that day. All that was needed was payment, two ID photos and a copy of an ID book.
Staff would scan the documents so the licence was on the system.
"I'm telling you, you don't have to even study.”
All it took was 30 minutes to take a thumb print and sign the paperwork, and pay R68.
"Driver’s, it's very quick. It takes me three days... four days.”
I went to the offices and met Jo inside the grounds.
Lucky’s better than Jo
He said he was well known at the Randburg Licensing Department and had been working there for four years. He said he was not afraid of anyone and was willing to talk openly about the deal he thought we were about to make.
I stopped short of paying Jo the money because to do so would have made GroundUp complicit in a crime.
After unsuccessful attempts to confirm over the telephone that Jo is indeed a Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) employee, I visited the offices a second time.
This time I stumbled upon a JMPD officer, in uniform, who said he could also help us buy a learner’s and driver’s licence.
The employee, who said his name was Lucky, who sits at the reception desk, assured me that because he worked at the JMPD, he was a safer option than Jo. Jo, he said, was a thief.
"He's cheaper, but what if he takes your money and doesn't do anything? Unlike him, I can't rob you. I work here. You get what I mean?"
Lucky said a learner’s licence would cost R1 500 and a driver’s licence R2 800. He said within two weeks I would have both documents.
Like Jo, he told me to arrive on the day of the learner’s exam and pretend to write the test, then sign the official documents.
For a driver’s licence, he said, a customer had to arrive in his or her own vehicle. An instructor would provide guidance on how to pass the yard test. The road test would be rigged to ensure a pass.
I heard Lucky talking to another customer about his driver’s test. Lucky advised the caller to arrange a truck.
“The guy for the truck charges about R600 and then take at least one lesson, because you know how to drive. And then when you go in, he (the inspector) will know that I've already spoken to him. And then he'll just guide you. 'Go here and there, do this and this', until you are finished."
Lucky was careful to tell his client that his fee did not include the cost of hiring the truck or the driving lesson.
Meanwhile, JMPD spokesperson, Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said any officer caught soliciting bribes would face a disciplinary meeting.
"The JMPD does not tolerate corruption."
He referred GroundUp to the internal affairs head, Sam Sethagu, who would investigate the evidence we collected.
The cost of a legal learner's licence is R108 for the booking and R60 for the issuing fee. A driver's licence Code 10 test costs R240, and a Code 8, R228. The issuing fee for both licences is R228.
Numerous attempts to phone the Randburg Licencing Department proved unsuccessful. The listed phone numbers appeared to be out of order.