• South Africa's driving licence card printing machine had reportedly broken down in November 2021.
• It has since been fixed, and is up and running.
• Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula paid the DLCA a visit to see the machine in action.
• For motoring news, go to Wheels24.
Less than two weeks ago, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced South Africa's driving licence card machine was broken and in Germany to be fixed. Now, Mbalula has released a video on social media of himself visiting the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA) - the national entity which produces driving licence cards for the entire country.
Earlier in January, Wheels24 reported the machine had consequently broken in November 2021. Mbalula had said at the time: "The license machine is in Germany; it has broken. I will be announcing temporary measures with regards to temporary licences, but I am moving ahead with the new driving licence cards, which I will announce in public."
Mbalula says in the video that the staff are pulling "day and night shifts" to get South Africa's driving licence cards printed. He also says in the video that some of the staff at the DLCA have been working there since 1998 - around the time the print machine had initially been put in use.
Good morning SA, yesterday I visited the Staff at the DLCA and spent the afternoon with them.— FIKILE MBALULA | MR FIX (@MbalulaFikile) January 26, 2022
The Licensing Card Machine has been fixed and is in operation. The Staff is pulling Day and Night shift to ensure your License are made and delivered. https://t.co/k2xuXNMkM1 pic.twitter.com/x3XjYpkx6O
While the machine being back in running order is good news, there has been a significant backlog in driving licence renewals - at least more than 500 000 alone just in Gauteng at the time when the print machine came to a halt. However, the backlog had been growing long before then. The South African driving licence system has long since been in peril and was only spotlighted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Gauteng motorists, and now some in the Eastern Cape, have been battling with the online booking system known as Natis.
According to a press release issued in November 2021 by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the backlog was close to 1.5-million two months ago:
The RTMC said: "The backlog of driving licence cards that expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021 is moving slowly. The backlog now stands at 1 476 853. Gauteng accounts for 509 888 driving licence cards not yet renewed, followed by KwaZulu Natal with 242 170, Western Province 192 519, Limpopo 134 886, Mpumalanga 122 566, Eastern Cape 107 601, Free State 71 165, North West 69 350 and Northern Cape 26 708."
We can only imagine how these numbers have escalated in each province since mid-November. Many motorists have emailed Wheels24 and said they have been waiting for their driving licence cards for more than six months - long before the machine was broken.
Mbalula says in the video during his visit to the DLCA on Tuesday (25 January) that he will give further details of the machine and how it operates in his upcoming address.
OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage highlights the stress and dilemmas South Africans are going through to obtain a driving licence card. "Motorists are being forced to drive around with expired driving licence cards because they can't keep taking days off work to go back and forth to the department," he notes. The Department of Transport extended its grace period for driving licence cards that expired in the lockdown last year, ending at the end of March 2022.
The Automobile Association told Wheels24: "It's great news that the printing machine is up and running again, but we're extremely concerned about the backlog. It's only obvious that the deadline for 31 March 2022 for lockdown expired driving licences will once again be met, and this date will most likely have to be extended again."