Driving with J9 | Why you can't be complacent about renewing driving or vehicle licences

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A Metro Police officer talks to a motorist at a roadblock in Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa will begin a phased easing of its strict lockdown measures on May 1, in a continued attempt to contain the increase of coronavirus cases.  via Getty Images)
A Metro Police officer talks to a motorist at a roadblock in Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa will begin a phased easing of its strict lockdown measures on May 1, in a continued attempt to contain the increase of coronavirus cases. via Getty Images)
Photo by Nardus Engelbrecht/Gallo Images

• Learners' and driving licences which expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 will be valid until 31 August.
• Third party services could renew your vehicle licence on your behalf.
• There is no extension for vehicle licences.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.

Towards the end of 2020, the Department of Transport announced that all learner and driving licences expired from 26 March to 31 December are deemed valid until 31 August 2021.

Even in November, I had been concerned about motorists whose licences expire from 1 January 2021. What will they do?

Now, we're in the second phase of a crisis, and yet there is no provision being made for those who have driving and vehicle licences expiring from this month. Numbers have surged significantly, and indeed we can't be standing in long queues to renew licences while those who have documents expired last year gets an exemption. It's just not fair. 

Then, at the end of December, Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula announced a further extension for all licences, including vehicle licences. Mbalula had posted to his social media account on Twitter that licences from 26 March and up to 28 February would be valid until the end of August. Wheels24 reported on this, and at the time of the article, the Government Gazette had not yet been updated. A week later, and there was no change to the official document. Since then, the minister has deleted his tweets after the Justice Project South Africa, and the Automobile Association had questioned this.

So, here we are, still in a colossal mess. One, that was in a dire state way before the pandemic hit. South Africa's licence system is as chaotic as a room full of preschoolers after having a bag of sweets.

While I would love to tell our readers, rather stay home, and stay safe, your licences can wait (especially since your driving licence never expires), yet I can't. 

vehicle licence
Motorists wait in a queue to renew vehicle licences.

Why? Because there is no grace period for vehicle licences, and if you haven't paid your expired vehicle licence from last year, I am sorry for the penalties you're going to pay. Some people have been gravely ill, others have lost more loved ones than we can count, and there are those motorists who are fearing for their lives. Renewing a licence of any kind, should not be the thing we should have to be worried about while we lose our family. 

My husband's vehicle licence expired at the end of November, he went and renewed it a little over four weeks after the expiration date and was slapped with a R200 penalty. And that was just penalties for one month.

We're had readers with comorbidities, and who have been severely ill and unable to renew their vehicle licences last year - they owe thousands in penalties and simply just can't afford to pay. There is no dispensation.

And what if you're a learner driver, and your learner licence is about to expire? Sadly, the government doesn't care about that, or the thousands of Rands you had to save up for driving lessons or writing the learner's test. Or all the other licences which need renewal when South Africa's death toll has just surpassed more 33 000. Only on Sunday, another 399 people died in one day due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and Minister Mbalula wants us to stand in snaking queues?

Driving licence testing centres and municipality offices are closed due to positive cases with no warning to those who have to journey far and find closed gates and doors. Petrol money and taxi fare wasted for nothing. 

While there is no penalty for a late driving licence renewal; whether it's two weeks, a month or three years, you'll pay nothing extra. However, if you are caught with a driving licence card which has expired before 26 March or after 31 December, then a traffic official could fine you for not carrying a valid driving licence card on your person.

Either way, we're being screwed over. Yes, our licence system should be completely digital by now; yes, driving licence cards should be valid for ten years instead of five; yes, we should have an eye test done every five years and update it digitally. But, we're not there yet, nor is any of that in the near future. 

The Automobile Association has been lobbying for a ten-year extension, just as they have been lobbying for vehicle licences to be renewed through their offices to help ease the backlogs. Yet, their cries are ignored, just like the rest of us.

Look out for another article this week with a collation of those who offer vehicle licence or roadworthy documents in various areas in the Western Cape, and Eastern Cape during the week. Motorists in Gauteng or the Free State can visit the ChatBack website; these guys can renew your vehicle licence via WhatsApp. 

I am sorry that this article is reaffirming your questions, but sadly, I don't have any more answers until the Department of Transport comes up with a reasonable extension fair to all. Having another extension for the next few months just won't work. August will be on our doorstep before we know it, and the backlog will be tenfold because everyone is complacent about the extension.  As numbers continue to surge, and there's no end to the pandemic in sight, I urge you to stay safe, sanitise and wear your mask, and look after yourselves - whether you're going to renew your licence or not. You're damned if you don't and damned if you do.

toyota supra, janine van der post, wheels24 editor
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.

Please note we're trying to respond to all reader emails, and ask for some patience if you do not receive an immediate reply.

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