Driving with J9 | Licence collection office closed Saturdays as staff overtime not approved

Motorists queue outside a licence renewal centre.
Motorists queue outside a licence renewal centre.
JP Plater

• Vehicle and driving licence renewals remain problematic for most South Africans.
• While some centres offer excellent service, others remain closed due Covid-19 positive infections.
• There is still no extension for any licences which expire from January 2021 and there after.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.

South Africa has just surpassed 40 570 total deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It's no doubt understandable that driving licence testing centres, as well as vehicle licence or municipality offices, would close due to staff members testing positive for coronavirus infections.

But here lies my gripe - there is no communication. Our government has embraced the use of social media platforms; indeed a Tweet could be sent out, if not a release of said closure of centres - even if it is only for two or three days to deep cleanse?

Most driving licence centres and vehicle licence renewal offices have extended their hours, with some open all day on Saturdays and even on Sundays. And thanks to our Wheels24 readers, who have highlighted some centres which operate swiftly, and with strict protocols, along with friendly staff, it's not all doom and gloom to renew your licence.

We'll run another list of places to go based on reader experiences if you're in an area to choose to use these facilities.

I'd also like to believe there's been an improvement with the online Natis booking system, but for every email, I receive from a reader who has managed to book a slot successfully, I get three more who have been battling for months. And so it continues.

I have written to the Minister Fikile Mbalula at the Department of Transport a couple of times now, as to the RTMC, and I am yet to receive a response. The extension for lockdown expired licences only applies to all learner's licences, temporary driving licence permits, and driving licence cards expired from 26 March and 31 December. February is on our doorstep, and still, thousands of motorists struggle to get an online slot.  

What about all those whose licences, vehicle licences included, expired from 1 January and after that? What about all those with severe comorbidities, or who have been infected with the virus, and can't meet their deadlines? A blanket extension for all would be the most logical thing, but I suppose not doing so would mean the government could still lap up profits from renewals.

Then I get a letter from one reader who explains he found the collection office at the Sandton driving licence testing centre closed on Saturday, and the reason is just unbelievable. 

Wheels24 reader Michael Van Niekerk explains his dilemma, and writes: 

"I managed to complete the renewal of my driving licence in December while on leave.

"My licence card has been delivered to the Sandton DLTC, and I checked the website to confirm that they would be open on Saturdays from 08:30 to 12:00, as my schedule makes it difficult for me to go there during the week.

"I was sixth in the queue this past Saturday when a security guard came out at 08:20 to tell us that the collection section was not going to open. There is an official sign outside the gate indicating operation hours as 08:30 to 12:00 on Saturdays.

"The guard gave me the contact number of one of the managers who informed me that the overtime had not been approved for the staff to work that Saturday. He also mentioned that staff were rotating work shifts during the week due to Covid-19, so there wasn't a full complement of staff available to process all of the work.

"I find it difficult to understand why someone would be paid overtime for regular work. Retailers that are open over weekends require staff to work Saturdays and Sundays, with time off during the week.

"Overtime is only due once an employee that falls below the threshold salary level has worked the required 45 hours a week.

"If you miss a day due to Covid-rotational shifts, for example, then you should indeed have to work on Saturdays to make up the time?

"If you are not paid for the day that you miss then Saturdays are an ideal opportunity to make up the lost wages without the employer incurring additional costs."

"This is a prime example of a cost driver not being managed effectively with an unfortunate impact on service delivery of a critical element already in crisis."

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