OPINION | 'Tweets are not the law, Mr Minister' - JPSA calls out new licence extension

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
• On 31 December, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced a further extension on the grace period for expired licences.
• The new extension supposedly also includes vehicle licences and other driving permits. However, this new extension has not been included in the Government Gazette.
• JPSA's Howard Dembovsky calls out the Minister on his announcement via social media.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.

Earlier in January, Wheels24 reported a further grace period extension announced by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula at a press conference held at the Cape Town International Airport and on his Twitter account, at the end of December 2020.

A week later, this new extension has not yet been published in the Government Gazette.

The Justice Project South Africa, the Automobile Association, and Wheels24 editor Janine Van der Post are gravely concerned for motorists regarding the validity of the Minister's announcement. The entire renewal system continues to be a mess and was a dire situation long before the pandemic even started. 

Motorists are still being fined and charged exorbitant penalties for expired driving licence cards, and vehicle licences.

JPSA's Howard Dembovsky shares his views.

Justice Project South Africa ("JPSA") is alarmed that on 31 December 2020, Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula falsely and irresponsibly tweeted:

"In order to ease the pressure on the motorist and to allow sufficient time for authorities to clear the backlogs as a consequence of the earlier restrictions, we have extended the validity of learner's and driver's licences, vehicle licences, professional driving permits".

As of 5 January 2021, no government gazette which gives any effect to the said extension of the validity period of vehicle licenses and the discs associated with them has been published. This rubbishes the Minister's claims that as of 31 December last year the said extension had already been effected. 

He did not say "we will" or "we are going to" extend the validity period of vehicle licenses, he said "we have" done so.

A driver's licence. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
A driver's licence.

Despite his unfortunate tendency to take to social media to promote himself, the Minister is a trusted public official whose word should be beyond reproach. It is only when or if the appropriate amendment is published in the government gazette that it will be of any force and effect. Twitter is not a substitute for the government gazette. Full stop! 

Several media houses have published the Minister's false claims, and as a result, it is not unlikely that trusting members of the public who have taken him on his word have been fined.

Members of the public are advised to place no reliance in tweets emanating from the Minister of Transport unless specific, verifiable references to official government publications are provided to back up his claims.

Howard Dembovsky is the chairman of the Justice Project South Africa
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