Motorists affected by the breakdown in the driving licence card production machine will have to remain patient for a bit longer before they get an idea of how long it will take before they receive their cards.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula tweeted on Wednesday during a visit to the Driving Licence Card Authority (DLCA) offices in Pretoria that the broken driving licence card producing machine is fixed and back in operation.
However, the DLCA is remaining tight-lipped about the extent of the driving licence card production backlog and how long it will take to get rid of.
The DLCA, a trading entity of the Department of Transport that is responsible for producing and delivering driving licence cards in the country, said on Thursday it had been given a directive not to give out this information.
The entity said this is because Mbalula will be making an announcement next week on this issue.
It appears likely from Moneyweb calculations that the backlog now exceeds one million driving licence cards and, based on the production capacity of the machine, that it will take almost four months for the backlog to be eradicated.
Apart from the backlog, Mbalula confirmed in August 2021 that nationally 42.4% or 1.2 million licences had not yet been renewed out of a total of 2.8 million licences that have expired since March 26 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns commenced.
At the same time, Mbalula announced a further extension to the validity period of driving licences that expired during the Covid-19 lockdowns to the end of March 2022.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) subsequently reported that motorists whose licences had expired during the lockdowns had been slow to renew them and urged them to do so.
The calculation of the size of the driving licence card backlog is partly based on the confirmation by the Department of Transport to Moneyweb on December 15 that there was a backlog as at December 1 of 383 000 driving licence cards because of the breakdown of the machine.
In addition, the department confirmed that the card producing machine broke down on November 7 2021.
It added that the DLCA has the capacity to produce around 300 000 cards a month.
“This gives the DLCA the comfort that the backlog will be cleared as quickly as possible once the machine is back in full operation,” it said at the time.
The need to work ‘day and night’
The 383 000 backlog as at December 1 resulted from the machine not being operational for 17 working days.
If the machine started producing cards again from Monday this week, it nonetheless would not have been operational for a further 35 working days.
If the backlog increased during these 35 working days at the same rate of 22 529 cards a day as it did in the 17 working days from November 7 to December 1, it means the backlog has now increased by a further 788 529, bringing the total backlog to 1 171 529 cards.
However, it is likely the backlog increased at a slower rate during this 35-day period because much of this period was during the festive season.
It will take almost four months for the machine to get rid of a 1.17 million card backlog if it is able to continuously produce 300 000 cards a month.
However, the Department of Transport did not indicate if the 300 000 cards a month production capacity of the machine included working over weekend and overtime.
Mbalula said in a video released alongside his tweet this week about the card printer being operational again that DLCA staff are working “day and night shifts” to get South Africa’s driving licence cards printed.