UPDATE: ChatBack is now operational in Gauteng, Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Free State, and the North West. Transactions to renew your vehicle licence via WhatsApp costs R250.
• Motorists have until end of August to renew lockdown expired vehicle licences.
• Learners and driving licence cards which expired from 26 March up to and including 31 August 2020, have until January 2021 to renew.
• Motor trade number licences grace period extended to end of November 2020.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
There's been much jubilation after President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement that South Africa will head into Level 2 restrictions on Monday (17 August). However, it does not mean we're out of the woods, or that's it's safe to resume to the way things once were before the Covid-19 pandemic hit local shores.
We're dashing to the end of August which means those who have vehicle licences which expired between 26 March and 31 August only have two weeks left to have these renewed.
There also still seems to be massive confusion about drivers', learners and vehicle licences, so let me reiterate:
All learners licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences and professional driving permits that expired from 26 March up to 31 August 2020 are extended to 31 January 2021.
READ | Victory for motorists! Expired licences from March lockdown to August to be valid until Jan 2021
All motor vehicle licence discs, temporary permits, and roadworthy certificates that expired during the period that commenced from 26 March 2020 up to and including 31 May 2020 are deemed to be valid and their validity period is extended for a further grace period ending on 31 August 2020.
Image: News24 /Duncan Alfreds
Motor trade number licences that expired during the period that commenced from 26 March 2020 up to and including 31 May 2020 are deemed to be valid and are extended for a further grace period ending on 30 November 2020.
Judging by the number of queries still coming through my mailbox, there are going to be endless queues for the rest of the month. And, just because drivers' or learners licences have been extended to January, doesn't mean we should be complacent and wait until the last minute to have this renewed.
The elderly and those who are high-risk candidates for the coronavirus are also still fearful of heading out into long queues despite physical distance efforts and protocols at licencing centres. There is a least an alternative solution for those who are not willing to take the risk.
Several small businesses offer a third party service for vehicle licence renewals in various areas. Best would be to search for such companies in your area, perhaps on social media groups.
Then we've come across a company called ChatBack which offers the same third-party service by sending a simple message via WhatsApp.
I caught up with Jan Kotze, founder of the ChatFin company to find out how it all works.
Kotze says: "Chatfin is a business focussed on providing services via WhatsApp. We believe that chat commerce is the future and that the use of third party chat platforms such as WhatsApp provides a unique opportunity to simplify 'painful' tasks using WhatsApp as the front-end interface with our clients. We've launched a brand, ChatBack, that lives in WhatsApp, and our first service is vehicle licence renewals. It takes one minute, and you're done renewing your licence. We are now also rolling out fines payments."
Sadly the service is not yet nation-wide, but Kotze says ChatBack currently only services Gauteng and the Free State: "We will be rolling out in Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal soon."
So what makes this company different from other similar services? Kotze says: "We are the only service that has been approved by WhatsApp. We also provide value back to our clients, such as more than R4000 worth of vouchers from Checkers and DisChem when you renew with us.""We ask R250 per renewal. Then you also get a nice disc holder and the benefits."
Motorists can use Payfast and SnapScan as payment gateways which means clients can use credit and debit cards, or EFT and even mobicred.
Kotze says: "Once you have paid for the service, you will be asked to provide a photo of your ID or driver's licence, along with your proof of residence."
At R250 extra for peace of mind, this is well worth it if you can afford it, and definitely an answer for the hundreds of Wheels24 readers who still feel entirely helpless when it comes to vehicle licence renewals. Remember, if you're based outside Gauteng or the Free State, there are similar services available in your area, it might just take some digging to find them.