Cabinet has mandated the Department of Transport to investigate the possibility of integrating driving licences into identity cards (IDs), Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Friday.
He also announced that the grace period for the renewal of driving licences that expired during the Covid-19 lockdown has been extended until April 15.
Mbalula said a new driving licence card has been discussed by cabinet, which has mandated his department to consider having a single card “instead of all these things arriving in silos and having Home Affairs and Sassa [SA Social Security Agency] cards”.
However, Mbalula said such an integrated card will take more than five years to develop.
“But we are looking at that while we need to process the new [driving licence] cards for South Africa, which will kill the entire challenge we have got with regard to the old card.
“Our vision is to go forward and to get a new driving licence card. While the country moves with the rest of the world for a single … card for everything, we must resolve the issue of the new [driving licence] card,” he added.
“Cabinet has given us a mandate to within two weeks come back so they can give a green light and look at the time frames and how realistic this new card is versus what we are doing,” he said.
Mbalula also reiterated that the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has been commissioned to undertake research and report back to him on possible changes to the driving licence renewal time frame.
This follows calls for the validity period to be extended to 10 years.
Mbalula said this research will look at the correlation between the renewal period and safety on the country’s roads and what factors should be taken into account if the current five-year validity period is revised.
This work is already underway and will be concluded by April 30, he said.
Mbalula said the grace period for driving licence renewals will now expire on April 15, the same date as the expiry of the National State of Disaster.
The grace period applies to the renewal of driving licences that expired between March 26 2020 and August 21 2021.
Mbalula urged all those who have yet to renew their driving licences not to delay any further.
He said agreement has been reached with provincial MECs to extend the operating hours of the Driving Licence Test Centres (DLTCs) in the different provinces and for them to be open over weekends.
Mbalula said the Driving Licence Card Authority (DLCA) is already operating 24 hours a day to produce cards and approval was granted by the Department of Public Service and Administration for the DLCA to exceed the 30% cap on overtime.
Motorists who apply for the renewal of their driving licence cards before the grace period expiry date are permitted to use the expired card for a period of three months, provided they have their expired card and receipt for the payment of their renewal application in their possession and the vehicle at all times.
Mbalula said driving licence cards are produced on a first come, first served basis and is confident that anyone who applies to renew their licence card by the new deadline will have their new cards within the three-month period in which their expired driving licence cards remain valid.
Mbalula said the backlog in the printing of driving licence cards for motorists who have already applied to renew their cards has been reduced to 522 839 cards.
He added that the number of motorists whose driving licences expired during the grace period but who have not yet applied to renew their licences had dropped to 1.42 million by March 28 2022 from 2.81 million on March 26 2020.
“This means that only 49% of the affected motorists have applied for renewal of their expired driving licences.
“The primary reason for this is that motorists are not coming forward to renew their licences for a variety of reasons. We are concerned that the pace of renewal in the provinces remains sluggish,” he said.
Two-week extension ‘likely sufficient’
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) CEO Wayne Duvenage welcomed the extension but said with as many as one million motorists possibly now with expired licence cards, it seems unlikely the two-week extension will be sufficient.
“We urge the minister to engage with civil society and other stakeholders to address the impediments and design flaws that still exist within the online booking system.
“We furthermore urge the minister to make a decision on increasing the driver’s licence validity period from five to 10 years, which is common international practice and will go a long way to improving efficiency within government,” he said.
The Automobile Association (AA) said prior to the extension announcement that extending the deadline will indicate a willingness by government to deal effectively with the current backlogs and show that it understands the limitations of its current structures.
Associations representing vehicle fleet operators, including the Road Freight Association, the SA Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association and the Southern Africa Bus Operators Association, called on government to implement the electronic driving licence should driving licences not be coupled with the smart ID card as originally intended.