On or off? Mbalula says report of new online licence fee is 'false', but road ahead still unclear

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Minster of Transport Fikile Mbalula.
Minster of Transport Fikile Mbalula.
Thabo Jaiyesimi/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

Earlier on Wednesday, Wheels24 reported that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula had published a draft amendment to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) Regulations in the Government Gazette (Nr. 45085 on 3 September 2021) for comments. 

The draft amendment regulates fees that may be charged for NaTIS related services. An example of the fees to be amended is a fee of R250 for an online booking for the renewal of a credit card format driving licence. See draft regulation 2(3)(d).

The way the Gazette is worded means the R250 is an additional fee for those who are now using the online system, yet there has been no charge previously. Also, because the Natis system is mandatory for Gauteng and some Eastern Cape motorists, no walk-ins are allowed at driving licence testing centres, so all applications must be made online.

READ | Minister Mbalula now wants motorists to pay double for driving licences and card renewals

On Wednesday, Mbalula tweeted that the Wheels24 report was "false", however, nowhere in the amendment does it state that this new fee includes the entire transaction.

At the time of this story being published, Mbalula had not yet responded to Wheels24's questions about the Government Gazette's amendment and the online licence fee. We will publish his comments as a follow up article when we receive a response.

New licence fees published in the Government Gazette on 3 September 2021.

OUTA's Wayne Duvenage says: "This Gazette is very misleading and ambiguous. 

"In one line (Reg 2(3)(d)) they say the fee includes the actual licence, yet in another line (2(3)(b) and (c)) these figures of R700 cannot include the vehicle licence, as these costs are far higher than the fees they show in the schedule. 

"Furthermore, we need to know if this is a national Gazette or just applicable to Gauteng, as the driving licence renewal fee, which they say the public has been paying all along, is not the case. 

"It is below R250 at some DLTCs in Gauteng and in Cape Town; this fee is R140 as per the City of Cape Town website. This means that an ambiguous Gazette will be interpreted differently by different people. We believe the RTMC and the DoT have created a problem for themselves and the public with this Gazette. They should withdraw it, fix it, provide absolute clarity on what they are charging for and reissue for comment; otherwise, society will interpret it the way it reads."

licence fee online
The table of new licence fees as published in the Government Gazette on 3 September 2021.

READ | 'Why should citizens pay?' - Outa rejects government's extortion fees plan for driving licences

According to the Automobile Association, the proposed amendments are contained in an official Government Gazette. The exact wording of the entry states that "2(3)(d) Online booking for the renewal of credit card format driving licence R250.00".

The AA says: "Nowhere in the Gazette is any reference made to the inclusion or exclusion of the actual card in this fee. Therefore, based on this alone, the logical approach is to consider it is added to the credit card fee.

"The wording of the entire Gazette is extremely poor, and if the DoT or the RTMC feel aggrieved by any misinterpretations, they really have only themselves to blame. At the same time, one cannot refer to social media posts by either the RTMC or the Minister or the DoT refuting the versions which have been published; because the initial communication was formal through the Government Gazette, it is incumbent upon them to also clarify through this channel - not doing so means the original, poorly worded regulation stands.

"Nothing changes until the government gazette changes. In addition, the issue has also arisen as to why different provinces pay different rates for the renewals. People in Gauteng have no option but to use the online service (at a premium), which is way more expensive than what people, in, for instance, the Western Cape, are paying. And, again, we raise the issue that the system across the country is in any event broken and not servicing motorists properly."

READ | Mbalula's licence fees proposal is 'beyond outrageous and shows deep contempt for SA citizens' - AA

However, RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane told Wheels24: "The Gazette amendment is to give the public an option to pay online, instead of paying for the transaction in person at the driving licence testing centre. There is no new fee.

"It is also just to save them the 10 or 15 minutes they have to stand and queue to make payment at the DLTC. They will still need to confirm their biometrics at the DLTC as well."

When asked for clarity on why the Gazette's wording did not make this clear, no answer was given by Zwane.

South African Institute of Driving Instructors MD Robert Chandler says: "The tweet by Mr Fix is misleading. The normal protocol is to legislate and approve the alleged new option that the minister alludes to. Only once this has been finalised will it be appropriate for a fee to be Gazette.

"Secondly, the determination regarding the relevant fees for transactions falls within the ambit of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 and not the Road Traffic Management Corporations Act. At best, the RTMC could publish a transaction fee, which would result in an additional R22.00 that the RTMC could impose based on the figure the minister quotes.

"Furthermore, please could the minister explain how the online system would be able to capture and verify the biometrics of the applicant, which the NRTA requires before a DLC is renewed?

"No, this is a new fee, and if the intention was as stated, then the incorrect platform was used for it, and I have recently applied for and obtained a new credit card format driving licence, and it cost me R216 in Nelson Mandela Bay." 

Democratic Alliance transport spokesperson Chris Hunsinger said the party was calling on Mbalula to immediately "retract his proposal in the Government Gazette no. 797 of 3 September 2021".

He published the Amendment of Road Traffic Management Corporation Regulations, 2007, which appears to include new fee proposals.

"The outrage that followed the publication of this Gazette shows that the minister's proposal needs urgent clarification. A single tweet does not suffice. If the proposal that motorists pay R250 just to book a slot online to renew their driving license cards is genuinely just an added option to move the process online and not an extra cost to motorists, it should be stated clearly," Hunsinger said.

"What seems more likely, is that the minister did indeed intend for motorists to shell out extra money and is now backtracking due to the justified outrage that followed.

"The fact of the matter is that the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) currently has an R262-million surplus, and any extra cost to motorists would be nothing but daylight robbery.

"Due to decades of ANC mismanagement and a Covid-19 lockdown that severely restricts economic activity, South Africa now has the highest rate of unemployment in the world. South Africans struggle to provide for their basic needs, and many rely on their driving license cards to earn a living. To exploit motorists would be absolutely immoral, and Minister Mbalula should rectify and clarify his proposal as a matter of urgency."

Comments from the public about the R250 online fee can be submitted to either Adv Ngwako Thoka via email Thokan@dot.gov.za or to John Motsatsing via email Motsatsj@dot.gov.za, both at the Department of Transport Private Bag X193 Pretoria.

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