Driving with J9 | Closed offices, endless queues for licences - what are motorists to do?

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A driver's licence. Image: Duncan Alfreds
A driver's licence. Image: Duncan Alfreds
Duncan Alfreds, News24

• Motorists continue to battle to renew vehicle and driving licence card renewals.
• Stations close without any communication to motorists.
• Longer extensions are needed, and a solution is needed fast.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.

Every week I pray for a miracle. I have high hopes that the radio silence from Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is because the news will break of a new digital era for vehicle and driving licences. That we no longer need to stand for hours on end, only to be told: "come back tomorrow". Or, log on to a problematic system which has been offline once again.

But then I open my mailbox to hundreds of daily emails from Wheels24 readers in this pandemic, and I am brought straight back to reality. 

We are urged to stay home and stay safe, yet motorists are fined R3000 for expired vehicle licences when Covid-19 has hit them. They have been unable to leave home because they've been fighting for their lives and can't worry about the expired licence disc on their car. Perhaps they've been in hospital, or maybe they've lost a loved one they couldn't even see for the past few weeks. Yet, there is no mercy, no consideration.

Motorists who are aged, and have long lists of comorbidities are slapped with R700 fines when their vehicle licence is less than that. 

You're only exempted if your driving licence or learner's licence expired from 26 March and 31 December. If it was a few days before, or any time since the new year began, you're pretty much screwed. Excuse my tone; that seems to be the attitude from the government. Before we know it, it will be June and July - and no one would have paid renewed their licences yet, and the problem presents itself all over again.

licence, driver licence, testing centre
Driving Licensing Testing Centres should only be for first-time applicants, says Wheels24 readers.

Oh, you have an expired vehicle licence? The government needs to keep churning profits, so they're going to make you pay exorbitant penalties for being a couple of months late. The eNatis system is such a balls up; no one can hardly make appointments, but they won't dare screw up how much you owe on your late payment when you do eventually get to the front of the line to renew your car licence. 

Yes, I am furious, and I am hurting for our people who want to do the right thing, but they're afraid for their lives. I am mad because those who can't afford it, have to waste hundreds of Rands in fuel for numerous trips to a driving licence or vehicle registration centre because there's no notification that it has closed down due to staff infections. I am heartbroken for the pensioners who have been so ill, who lost their husbands or wives, or children, and now can't renew their licence because the penalties have accumulated to thousands of Rands.

I want to help as many people as I can, but pangs of guilt stab me every time I reply to a reader telling him or her they need to renew their expired vehicle licence or else they'll be fined heavily if they're pulled over. I feel bad because I need to ask them to go out and stand in a crowded area, and renew their licence, at the risk of being exposed. Or the motorist who is over sixty years of age, who needs to stand in a long queue on 'walk-in' Wednesdays in Gauteng being exposed and risk being infected with Covid-19? 

Or, do I have to tell people NOT to be law-abiding citizens, who are afraid for their lives, "don't worry, rather stay home and pay the fine for your expired driving licence card if you get caught by traffic officers?" 

One thing is for sure, the South African vehicle and driving licence system has been extremely problematic long before the coronavirus put the world in crisis. And, we could probably hold our breaths until we're blue in the face, no one who should matter, probably even cares. 

Yes, I am ranting, but I do so for all who don't have a voice. And if it means this is the noise I need to make every week, then so be it. But something has got to give. And perhaps there are those who do care, but have their hands tied behind their backs. 

I rant for the reader who wrote: "My car licence expired 30 November 2020. I have not been to renew as yet because they were offline on ALL three occasions, and another time they had closed at 12:00 pm. Will I be charged a penalty? If I am pulled over, will I get a fine?"

For Ms Eunice who said: "Dear Janine, My driving licence expired on 5 January 2021. I am 76 and terrified to go to any traffic department. What should I do?"

Yes, driving licence cards should be renewed, but rather give us ten years validity instead of five as the Automobile Association has been trying to lobby, and let motorists go for eye tests every five years which could be submitted online? Or, streamline a national vehicle licence renewal system which is entirely digital - and get it right? 

The same can b e said for Home Affairs and, let's not even talk about the people who have to sleep for days at centres for Sassa payouts?

So I ask, with tears in my eyes, what are motorists supposed to do?

"All learner's licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences and professional driving permits that expire during the period that commenced from 26 March 2020 up to and including 31 December 2020. These documents are "deemed to be valid and their validity periods are extended for a further grace period ending on 31 August 2021." - as published in the Government Gazette on 3 December 2020.

There is NO extension for vehicle licences and should be paid as soon as possible to avoid any further penalties.

Janine Van der Post,wheels24
Wheels24 editor, Janine Van der Post
If you have any driver licence or vehicle licence queries, or need some motoring advice? Please feel free to email the editor by clicking here.

Or, do you have a cool story to share about cars? Perhaps you have something to get off your chest or have an opinion about F1 or cars? We'd love to publish it here on Wheels24. Just email us here.

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