Driving licences: Motorists forced to become criminals due to an inept Transport Department

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Driver during the roadblock monitoring adherence to the level 4 lockdown regulations at Marianhill Toll Plaza on May 04, 2020 in Durban, South Africa.
Driver during the roadblock monitoring adherence to the level 4 lockdown regulations at Marianhill Toll Plaza on May 04, 2020 in Durban, South Africa.
Darren Stewart
  • The deadline for lockdown expired driving licences is 31 August 2021. 
  • Gauteng motorists are still battling to secure online licence slots.
  • Fred Nel writes about the messy state of the online e-Natis system. 
  • For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24

"My licence card expired in May. I registered on the eNatis site and checked every day for a slot, and there is nothing available across the province, never mind in Pretoria. I am stressing because if I get caught, it is a huge fine, but it is something completely out of my control." 

This is the situation of one Pretoria resident who contacted the DA a few weeks ago. But this resident is not alone. For months now, motorists in Gauteng have been complaining on social media, and in the press that they cannot get an appointment to renew their driving licence, despite an extension given to motorists with licences that expired last year August. This is due to the messy state of the e-Natis online booking system. This situation has been brought about by the ineptness of the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport and the RTMC who manages online bookings through the e-Natis system.       

The few motorists in the province who can get an appointment are more often than not subjected to long queues and, in some cases, turned away because of Covid-19 positive cases at the centres. This situation will be exacerbated with the country currently on Alert Level 4 and the subsequent protest action and looting that is gripping the province. This will result in many motorists having to drive without valid license cards and subsequently making themselves vulnerable to fines as well as their vehicle insurance being invalid.    

vehicle licence
Motorists wait in a queue to renew vehicle licences.
Getty Images ER Lombard

It is extremely unfair that motorists in the province are now being turned into criminals because our provincial department of transport, along with the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), is unable or unwilling to solve the problem.    

Last year, I wrote to the Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Jacob Mamabolo, the Minister for Transport, Fikile Mbalula, and the CEO of the RTMC, Makhosini Msibi, with a range of possible solutions to address the situation. 

Among the solutions that we proposed were the following:        

  1. A further extension for driver licence holders for all licences that expired during 2020 to be extended to 31 December 2021.     
  2.  Allow special after-hours and weekend services for PrDP applicants.     
  3. Allow Gauteng drivers to renew their driving licences anywhere in the country.     
  4. Immediately allow Gauteng motorists to renew licences at the following surrounding towns: Emalahleni, Delmas, Leandra, Evander, Secunda, Balfour, Sasolburg, Parys, Ventersdorp, Hartbeespoort, Brits, Bela-Bela, Rustenburg, Potchefstroom and Standerton.       
  5. Provide for online applications where drivers can pay their application fees and fill out all forms electronically before visiting a DLTC.       
  6. Allow applicants to submit eye tests for the tests to be evaluated in their absence (e.g., after-hours). They must only be called for another visit (eye test) if the eye test submitted is unsatisfactory.     
  7. Increase the number of eye testers at DTLCs to provide faster service and to accommodate more slots daily.     
  8.  Reduce the response time to repair eye testing machines.     
  9.  Allow reputable chains and practices (such as optometrists, banks, supermarkets, etc.) to provide the renewal of driving licences on an agency basis.       
  10. Conduct an audit into whether all available slots are being communicated to the RTMC by licence testing centres and whether all slots provided to the RTMC is indeed logged onto the Natis system.  
  11. Allow for the booking system to prioritise licenses that are overdue for renewal.       
  12. Extend the term for driving licence renewals to a longer-term (e.g. 7 or 10 years). 
  13. With the introduction of the AARTO system, automatic assessments can be made of a driver.

While the MEC for Transport in the province acknowledged my letter, and in April, announced several interventions that were to be launched. Almost all these interventions were a copy and paste exercise from my letter, but to date, there has been no feedback from the RTMC and the National Minister of Transport. However, since the announcement by the MEC, nothing has been implemented, and the crisis is deepening by the day. This situation can no longer persist, and the crisis needs to be resolved urgently.   

It is clear that the Gauteng department of transport and the national transport department is unable to deal with this severe backlog in the province and has created the space for so-called agents who are somehow able to get driving licence renewal timeslots at a fee to the motorists. This is clearly creating the correct environment for corruption to take place within the transport department. If the MEC is really serious about sorting out this mess and not turning honest motorists into criminals, he will implement the measures he announced in April this year as a matter of urgency.   

 Failure by the MEC to implement the measures he announced this year to deal with the backlog is denying honest motorists the right to renew their licenses timeously.

Fred Nel MPL is the DA Shadow MEC for Roads and Transport

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