• South Africans continue to battle to renew vehicle and driver's licences.
• More licencing centres are closing due to positive Covid-19 cases.
• Click on the link here to sign the petition.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
The battle to renew vehicle and drivers' or learners licences continue as more and more testing centres close due to the spread of Covid-19. This is placing immense pressure on motorists, and has also begun a ripple effect on businesses.
Learner licence holders are being hit the hardest as many people are simply being told at licencing centres to restart the process from scratch.
Since the Automobile Association's (AA) letter to the Department of Transport, no response has since been given.
Wheels24's Janine Van der Post says: "I have run out of answers for our dearest Wheels24 readers, and I feel for those who have compromised immune systems and stand in endless queues from early hours in the cold mornings, only to be turned away. Or, they rock up at testing stations, only to find them closed.
"It's so unfair that learner licences are just being disregarded, and for many, this is such a costly process. No one has money to throw away in these challenging times and the state of our economy during the pandemic.
The Automobile Association on Friday (10 July) launched an online petition to encourage the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, to extend the validity period of vehicle licence discs and driving licence cards.
READ | Why the AA's call on the Minister to extend the licence renewal period to 2021 should be granted
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC): "All Learner's Licences, driver's licences, motor vehicle licence discs, temporary permits, roadworthy certificates and professional driving permits (PrDPs) that expired during the period that commenced from 26 March to 31 May, are deemed valid and their validity period is further extended with 90 days from 1 June to 31 August 2020".
However, despite this concession, the AA believes it does not take into account licences which expired after 31 May, nor the reduced capacity of Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs) to renew driving licences, and the South African Post Office to process discs.
Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
In a letter to the Minister on 29 June, AA CEO Willem Groenewald noted that there are problems with the current legacy operational framework of the DLTCs combined with unforeseen circumstances such as COVID-19 which make it difficult for them to service drivers within that timeframe.
He said that the current National Traffic Information System (NaTIS) on which people must book appointments continues to be problematic and that centres may be closed intermittently due to COVID-19.
"Our experience is that the majority of drivers in South Africa prefer to remain compliant with the regulations and to be on the road legally. Despite the system being problematic, drivers take the necessary steps to ensure they remain within the law. However, given the current constraints on the system, many are faced with the real possibility that they may not be able to do this," Groenewald said.
An added issue, Groenewald noted, was that drivers who are unable to renew discs or driving cards might have problems if they are involved in crashes as insurers may repudiate claims based on the fact that the drivers are not on the road legally.
The AA has called for a further extension beyond the end of August to the end of January 2021, which it says it a more feasible option to the current date of 31 August.
Driving with J9: Mr Mbalula, the 90-day grace period for expired licences is coming up fast
"Our proposed extension date also makes provision for the closure of DLTCs over the festive period, and for further potential closures as a result of COVID-19," he noted.
In support of the Minister resolving the problems, the AA is offering its national network of agents to assist drivers in renewing their licences. The Association says the Minister should consider allowing third-party agents – such as the AA – to perform vehicle disc and driving licence card renewal services which are currently only offered through the DLTCs and the Post Office.
It said that not only will this go a long way in dealing with the current and historical backlogs; it will also alleviate the pressure on the DLTC infrastructure going forward. The AA has not received a response from the Minister nor his office to the letter sent at the end of June. However, the AA will continue to raise this issue wherever it can in an effort to ensure the validity of licence discs, driving licence cards and other licences are extended, and that drivers can drive with peace of mind.
How you can help
In this regard, the AA is launching an online petition available HERE through which it wants to attract signatures in support for its call to pass on to the Minister as a sign of the backing its call enjoys among the public.