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SA’s driving licence renewal process is a debacle

Deadline for the renewal of expired driving licences must be seriously considered.
Image: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters

South Africa’s driving licence renewal process is a debacle.

It certainly was not working efficiently before the Covid-19 pandemic – and now it has become an absolute nightmare for any motorist who needs to renew their driving licence or obtain other vehicle-related documentation.

The problems at the Driving Licence Test Centres (DLTCs) have been well ventilated by a number of organisations.

These problems include an online booking system in Gauteng that simply does not work –  except for some driving schools; long queues and delays; a shortage of staff at DLTCs, resulting in about 30% of processing booths and cashier counters remaining unmanned; computers and eye testing machines not working; and DLTCs closing at unscheduled times.

Since the driving licence credit card was first introduced many years ago, the process has hardly improved.

Many years ago, I was among the first motorists required to convert the driving licence in my identity document to the new credit card driving licence because of the month of my birth.

It then took five hours standing in a long queue at the Waltloo DLTC in Pretoria to complete the application and a further five hours, and similar long queues, to collect it.

To say it was frustrating is an understatement. It is similarly frustrating now.

My driving licence expired during the hard lockdown in 2020. I attempted twice after the relaxation of the lockdown regulations to renew my driving licence at the Centurion DLTC but was on both occasions turned away – despite the dispensation granted to people over the age of 60 that allows them to simply walk into DLTCs on a Wednesday without a booking.

It was third time lucky last Wednesday, but it still took four hours and 45 minutes to complete the process at the Centurion DLTC, which includes waiting for an hour-and-a-half in the queue for the centre to open.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has acknowledged there is a backlog of 500 000 licences, but the Centurion DLTC still opened only at 8am.

DLTCs in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have reportedly extended their operating times in an attempt to address the backlog.

In addition, people are informed via a flimsy notice printed on a piece of A4 paper that is sticky-taped to a metal beam and the front door that the Centurion DLTC closes on Wednesday at either 12 noon or 1pm – depending on which notice you read – for “deep cleaning and sanitation”. This is obviously related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A 6.30am arrival at the Centurion DLTC secured me 26th place in the driving licence renewal queue, the length of which had swelled to more than 100 people by the time the centre opened at 8am.

Centurion DLTC officials must be complimented for walking down the queue once the centre opened and checking everyone’s documentation to ensure anyone not 60 or older had a booking.

This prevented some people from unnecessarily wasting many hours waiting in the queue when their applications would not have been processed.

The Centurion DLTC was able to process only 10 driving licence renewals each hour. If all the country’s DLTC operate at the same level, it’s difficult to imagine the backlog ever being eliminated.

The reason for the slow processing rate was clear once you were eventually permitted to enter the centre.

Only three of the five driving licence renewal booths were manned and processing applications. While waiting to be served, DLTC officials ushered at least two people who had not been in the queue into processing booths.

It is unclear why these people were allowed to queue-jump.

Despite DLTCs having eye test equipment, it appears it is now a requirement that motorists have an eye test certificate from an optician.

Officials walked down the queue and checked that prospective applicants had such a certificate and a printed paper notice outside each booth in the centre listed an eye test certificate as one of the documents required for their applications to be processed.

People are required to pay for their application to complete the process. Once again, not all the cashier booths were staffed and operational, resulting in relatively long queues.

From this experience, it is clear that the entire vehicle registration, licencing and driver testing system requires a complete overhaul because it is inefficient and there is more than sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest it is possibly corrupt.

The Department of Transport should be making it easy for people to comply with their legal obligations and could possibly learn from the Department of Home Affairs initiative whereby it established passports and identity document applications and renewal services inside certain banks.

This initiative has resulted in an extremely efficient process, with a booking system that works and where people are informed when their passport or identity document is ready for collection.

This is a far cry from how the DLTCs operate. Another flimsy, printed notice stuck to the door of the Centurion DLTC informs motorists that it does not send out a SMS to inform people when their driving licence is ready for collection. It merely advises people to revisit the DLTC in six to eight weeks. If their driving licence is not ready then, I suppose it is just tough luck.

The Automobile Association (AA) and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) have warned that the grossly inefficient driving licence renewal system will force many people to break the law because, through no fault of their own, they have no choice.

Read: Calls for further extension to driving licence validity period intensify

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula confirmed in May this year that his department is looking at launching and rolling out a new driving licence card before the end of this year and implementing a bouquet of measures to improve the service to the public .

Read: New driver’s licence card to be introduced this year

Mbalula added that his department wants to “kill the queues at DLTCs and is also working on undermining the corruption involved in the booking of DLTC slots, especially in Gauteng, to ensure that getting a driver’s licence does not become a cumbersome and stressful journey and to make it accessible”.

Such improvements are long overdue and are welcome.

However, it does not help any of the thousands of motorists who have not yet managed to renew their driving licence.

In light of the serious and widespread problems at DLTCs, the transport minister must now seriously consider a further extension to the deadline for people to renew their expired driving licences – and possibly also extend the validity period of licences from five to 10 years.

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Firstly, the forced renewal of license disks is clearly nothing more than a money making racket.

Secondly, we’re in the 21st century. The renewal process can easily be streamlined as follows: you get a competent private company to develop an online application system that runs on a decent network with enough capacity. You apply online and and get a slot to go to a private optometrist, with your ID and booking number. The optometrist gets paid a fee to submit your results on the online system. You get sent your new disk by private courier.

The sullen staff at licensing centres gets reduced to a skeleton staff who do driver testing only. You still apply online, and only pitch at the centre for the actual test. Your license gets couriered to you too.

But, of course, I am now experiencing European tendencies and the above solution, although totally workable, will be far too logical and efficient for the cadres to even consider.

That already happens in Brazil and other countries. SA is backward third-world country.

In Brazil you can get your police clearance online as well and lands in SA within 3 days. NO NEED FOR FINGERPRINTS! This is a crock and a sham!

Thanks to Zumas buddy…Sabby Shaik.

You cannot tighten the system like that. Where are the loopholes for stealing???

I and my wife are waiting for election day.

That will never work. It is far too logical, practical and likely to work.
Furthermore, far too many useless, unemployable bone idle comrades will be without “work”.

These colonialist thoughts must be banned. We dare not bring efficiency to Africa.

SA’s [insert anything the government does] process is a debacle. Literally. The fecal touch

They cannot even get the licensing dept. to work (very basic).

Is it true that we have 2,000,000 illegal drivers licenses?
If true then SARS must do a lifestyle audit.

No, no! They do looting and corruption better than anywhere in the world!

At Marlboro things were running fairly well when I went. Staff were helpful and there was ready access to sanitizer bottles.

A few months later when my wife went in things had degenerated badly. No sanitizer in sight. Staff were rude and malicious sending my wife to the wrong queue and then forcing her to the back of the queue. She is over 60.

Pathetic management if you ask me.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you, if they cannot fix a pothole that requires a little bit of knowledge on how to wield a shovel and a pick how do you expect them to renew your drivers’ license that requires them to know how to operate a pen some paper a camera and how to switch a computer on and off in an efficient manner? Remember they only were only required to get 30% to pass their M.A. trick exam!

Our country is run by useless ex “freedom fighters” Wink wink.

So WTF does anyone expect from this lot??? They are not even politicians. Since when does a “freedom fighter” just overnight turn into a politician??? The leader is an ex union leader. NOTHING ELSE!! Except for being SA’s first citizen when it comes to BEE beneficiary status.

Gorilla warfare and running the local licensing department does not share any skillsets.
.

That is the crux of the problem. Liberate a country. Fine. Well done. Now stand aside and let someone else – WITH A DIFFERENT SET OF SKILLS – THE RIGHT SET OF SKILLS – run it.

Form RSA-200 sorts this out in no time at the roadblock.

Clearly a money making scheme run by surly fools who don’t even realise this is how their salaries get paid.

There is no actual driving test at renewal so palm it out to an approved optometrist to do the eye test and issue the license.

I also had the unfortunate privilege of renewing my driver’s and motor licenses in the DA run town of Worcester. What a surly, uncooperative, bunch of people, who haphazardly make up rules as they go along. Today you must stand in this que, tomorrow a mystical document, that never before was required, is required. This type of behaviour can only exist when it is condoned by the Head of the department, going right up to the top. It is not a reflection of the people at the bottom, but rather a reflection of the quality of management you have. This is a serious breach of the contract between the citizens and state employees, which stems from the utter lack of respect politicians have for voters. I’m so fed-up of paying more and more tax, while I’m disrespected and abused by the very same people who receive a generous salary because of my largesse. I, for one, will carefully consider my next vote. I will also have a very careful look at the taxes I pay.

My and my wife’s driver licence extended for another 5 years experience in one of Australia’s license offices :

A – Available and clean parking space ( no appointment required )
B – We enter the clean , well marked office ( no foul smells here ) and
take a ticket ( our call number )
C – We sit down ( clean chairs ) for about 2 minutes and our number
gets called.
D – At the counter we are greeted by a friendly lady. She ask us what
service we would like – we tell her . Can I see your existing
licence please ? We show them. She types quickly something
into her computer. Would you like it for 1 , 3 or 5 years ?
5 years please.
All good – please go to counter XXX and pay for your updates.
E – We go to Counter XXX . Good Morning – how would you like to pay ?
Card please . Handing over the card . Card returned . Here is your
receipt sir. Your new driver licence will be sent to your postal
address within 10 days .
G – On exiting the building my wife says to me : Do you realize that we
were in and out in just under 8 minutes ?
G – about 5 days later we find our new license in 2 envelopes in our
mail box.

and a shabby shaik wasn’t enriched in the process!

Unfortunately there seems to be a belief in Africa that the longer the queue waiting for you, the more important you are.

Renewing my drivers license in Qatar experience – walk in, take a number, number called, pay the renewal fee and walk out with the newly printed card. Whole experience about 15-20 minutes.

Renewing car license in Qatar experience – go to a testing centre near you if vehicle is older than 3 years old, car is tested (brakes, steering, damage, etc), if you pass test, you produce your insurance proof (paid up front for the year), if you don’t have insurance yet, there is a counter where you can take it out and pay immediately, proceed to payment counter for test and new license, pay, get your new printed license card immediately. Takes about an hour

This the same Mbaks who claimed 2 years back that he was Mr Fear Fokkol, Mr Fixit for etolls. Where we on that?

It’s more like Mr Fix Fokkol.

Almost getting as bad as the SAPS Firearms Renewal debacle!

(Frasier…sorry I mean, Skills has left the building…)

I am over 60 and went to Centurion DLTC in 2019 to apply for my drivers license card.
The process was shockingly bad. You are treated like the enemy from the moment you arrive, but everyone sitting outside in the sun, waiting to be let into the gate seemed to just accept it because they knew something I did not. They knew nobody at DLTC cares about what you think, they will grind thru the day with their broken machine and get paid at the end of it. After a very long wait I was sent away to get a private eye test. I did so and returned the next day to start all over. Eventually I left with the order to come back in 6 weeks to sit outside again and wait to be called. I waited 7 weeks to make sure. This time there was a space available to sit under a shade. We were let in, we waited some more, my card was not ready. I was not happy and told them ti send an sms when it is ready. No, they cannot do that, come back next week. I went. Sucker! Still no card. I shouted abuse and left. Kept calling the department until I got hold of someone at the Headquarters of Incompetence who promised to follow up. He called me an hour later. My card had been at the Centurion DLTC since 5 weeks after I initially applied but they just did nit have the time yet to unpack the box. I was told to go back to Centurion, walk straight in and demand my card. He gave the order, they expect me.

This ANC government can’t organise a pi$$up in a bar! Totally incompetent and it’s so shameful that they haven’t been voted out!

My drivers licence also expired during lockdown 2020, and I struggled with that online system they have, never finding any slots to the DLTC’s near me. When I went down to DBN for a visit, I just renewed it there. The queues were long but they move quick. I have my renewed licence now (went back and fetched it in Jan).

If effective processes and systems were in place, we would not be able to “create employment” for people to be sit around and be inefficient and miserable to the public. The ANC can’t allow that to happen…

Has Moneyweb not picked up that the deadline has been extended?

End of comments.

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