AfriForum launches 'watershed' court bid to have driving licence card renewals scrapped

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A driver's licence.
A driver's licence.
Duncan Alfreds, News24
  • AfriForum is looking to have the renewal of drivers’ licences scrapped.
  • The organisation has argued that there is no legal basis for renewals every five years.
  • A legal bid was launched in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday. 

AfriForum has launched a legal bid to have the five-year renewal of drivers’ licences scrapped. 

The civil rights organisation filed court papers in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday, in an attempt to have the renewal requirement declared invalid and placed under review.

AfriForum campaign officer Reiner Duvenage said the legal bid comes on the back of several concerns about operations at the Department of Transport. These include a formal complaint submitted by AfriForum to the Public Protector in September, detailing allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the department.

He said:

Of particular concern is the renewal of drivers’ licences, which is becoming impossible due to systemic failures.

Last month, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said there were 1.3 million expired driving licence cards that have yet to be renewed.

READ | Driving with an expired licence card? RTMC warns motorists 'no excuses will be entertained'

When instructed to find a solution to this backlog, AfriForum’s legal team "formulated an astounding legal opinion that there is not sufficient legislation mandating the requirement of licences to be renewed every five years", said Duvenage.

This effectively meant that the government may have been punishing South Africans for driving with expired licence cards for more than 20 years, he added.

The application seeks a declaratory order that motorists cannot by law be penalised or fined for not being in possession of a renewed driving licence card, as no such penalty exists.

AfriForum argues that substantial legal and practical grounds exist for its application to succeed.

According to its lawyer, Daniël Eloff, the National Road Traffic Act does not clearly distinguish between a "driving licence" and a "driving licence card".

It also does not explicitly state that motorists must apply for new licence cards upon expiry.

It also does not state that it is a crime to drive with an expired licence card, nor prescribe any fines, penalties, or sanctions.

ALSO READ | Is your car insured in an accident if you missed the driving licence renewal deadline?

The legal argument rests on the opinion that the legislation is not "clear, concise and internally harmonious enough to enable the general public to know with a degree of certainty what is expected of them", said Eloff.

He argues that the "government cannot punish members of the public if it cannot clearly show what law is being transgressed".

The application also stresses that many countries worldwide opt for a licence card system that does not require such frequent renewals.

From a practical standpoint, the department’s "administrative, operational, and financial struggles" made it "irrational to require drivers to renew their license cards every five years", said Duvenage. 

"It is outrageous that there appears to be no legislation validating the requirement for driving licence cards to be renewed every five years. Therefore, if our application is successful, it will leave the Department of Transport with egg on its face as it would mean that it has been wrongfully punishing the public for years.

"This could truly be a watershed case in the history of South Africa."

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