• Motorists continue to battle to renew vehicle and drivers' licences.
• The AA calls on Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to extend the grace period to January 2021.
• Severe backlog and new appointments continue to strain the system for motorists wanting to renew documents.
Day in and day out, we receive hundreds of queries regarding licence renewals and the persistent problems motorists are facing trying to renew their documents.
The Automobile Association (AA) has called on Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to extend the validity of all licences beyond the 30 August deadline or face a situation where many thousands of motorists do not have the necessary legal driving documents.
This is a welcome plea, and we at Wheels24 sincerely hope the Minister takes this request to heart and grants the extension.
Wheels24 editor Janine Van der Post says: "Thousands of motorists are high-risk candidates of Covid-19. They have been home for the past few months adhering to lockdown regulations by staying indoors, doing online grocery shopping, and avoiding being in close contact with any other citizens. Many are ill, and elderly, and can not afford to put their lives at risk for the sake of unsuccessfully attempting to renew their licences.
"My heart goes out to the public who are at their wits' end, trying to do the right thing and be on the road legally in fear of being fined.
"Many readers mail me several times sharing their troubles in trying to book slots for licence renewals on the online NaTis system, or venturing out only to return home due to contaminated centres being closed, or due to long lines."Just today, a woman shared how she had been to a licencing centre thrice in one day but to no avail."
In a letter to the Minister's office on Monday, AA CEO Willem Groenewald notes that the current extension period only covers those driving licences which expired before the end of May.
"Any licences which expire in June or July may have an immediate 21-day grace period, but there are problems which make it difficult for these drivers to renew licences within that time," Groenewald writes in his letter.
He says the current National Traffic Information System (NaTIS) continues to be problematic, including the lack, or limited availability, of slots. He also notes that some centres may still be closed as a result of Covid-19 infections among staff.
"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. Although the system is often problematic, drivers take the necessary steps to ensure they stay 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 says.
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.
According to Groenewald: "This extension also makes provision for the closure of DLTCs over the festive period, and for further potential closures as a result of Covid-19".
As an alternative to an extension, the AA has also urged the Minister to consider allowing third-party agents – such as the AA – to perform licensing renewal services which are currently only offered through the DLTCs.
"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," says Groenewald.
Janine Van der Post is the Wheels24 editor. You can email her here with any licence queries.
Van der Post adds: "Even if the government decides not to consider this new extension, there need to be drastic changes to streamline the process of renewals for South Africans. While some centres have said essential works in uniform will be assisted immediately, or individual queues for the elderly would be in place, this is not the case. Another suggestion is that municipality offices could split the lines into vehicle licence renewals, collections, or payments.
"I drove past a municipality office late on Wednesday afternoon (1 July), and the line was still around the building's block with no end in sight. Many motorists fear they'll not meet the 90-day grace period since an entire month has already passed with various centres still being closed, and no available slots to make bookings."