While transport department dithers, angry motorists are still queuing for licence renewals

Despite the Minister of Transport Mr Fikile Mbalula’s commitment to assess the Road Traffic Management Corporations (RTMC) research on the extension of the validity period of drivers licences, and provide feedback to society, four months have now passed with no sign of a decision due.

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26/08/2022 09:53:36

.Graphic: OUTA


Almost six months after OUTA met with Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on 10 March 2022, we are still awaiting feedback on our proposal that the validity of licence cards should be extended from five to ten years. This despite the research OUTA provided to Mbalula during its March meeting, and a promise by the Minister that the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) will undertake its own research into the viability of our proposal by the end of April 2022. 

On 1 April, Mbalula tweeted the following: “The research will look at the co-relation between the renewal period and safety on our roads and what factors should be taken into account if we are to revise the current 5-year validity period. This work is already underway and will be concluded by 30 April 2022.”

Minister Mbalula also promised OUTA a follow up meeting within two weeks of our initial meeting to provide us with feedback. This meeting has yet to take place, despite reminders and follow up letters for the promised feedback session.

In a SABC news interview on 21 June 2022, Mbalula indicated that his office has received the RTMC research regarding the possible extension of driver’s licence cards validity to 10 years. 

“OUTA requested a copy of the research to compare the RTMC’s research findings with that done and submitted by OUTA,” says Adv Stefanie Fick, head of OUTA’s accountability division. “We’ve had no response from Mbalula, and our request for a date by which we can expect a formal response on the research, has also been ignored.”  

Fick said that OUTA also noted that the RTMC tender for a panel of researchers to conduct road safety related research, issued in September 2021, received 11 bids but a year later is listed as not awarded. “Road safety is the RTMC’s core mandate. The failure to arrange such research over a year indicates significant administrative failures.”

OUTA has furthermore noted Minister Mbalula’s statement during the SABC news interview that he would first have to present the proposal for a 10 year validity extension to Cabinet and that he could not provide further information until this proposal had been passed by Cabinet. 

“We respectfully disagree and remind the Minister that this change can easily be effected by him, by simply publishing new Regulations in the Government Gazette. He definitely does not need Cabinet approval,” says Fick.

“The renewal of driver’s licences is an accepted practice worldwide and we do not disagree with this issue. However, we remind the Minister that the validity period is a policy decision resting with his department within Government. We urge Minister Mbalula to stop ignoring civil society’s outcry about the many practical problems in executing timely renewal in South Africa. The problems that motorists are experiencing w.r.t. driver’s licence renewals, continue to this day and by extending the validity period, will alleviate the administrative burden and limit opportunities for corruption.  Public pressure is the only way to encourage the department to change this regulation. We call on motorists nationwide to support our campaign.”

In addition to the decision on the driver's licence validity extension, Fick said OUTA awaits information and updates pertaining to the introduction of the new driver licence card and the procurement of the new card printing machine, which has been a matter on the table for a few years now.  OUTA has noted that the tender for the new machine, issued in October last year, was cancelled due to “material irregularity” and a new tender has not been advertised yet. 

**More information on the DLCA, the new card machine and the cancelled tender

The Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA), the state-owned trading entity of the Department of Transport which was set up solely for the production of driver’s licence cards, has consistently failed to procure the long-promised new card printing machine.

The most recent tender has been cancelled as irregular. There is no current tender advertised.

The DLCA annual report 2020/21 (the most recent available) reported that the DCLA received 1 918 753 orders for driving licence cards that year and delivered 1 772 190 cards (page 18). It does not list the number of bookings – or failed bookings – which has been a significant problem in Gauteng. The report notes that the DLCA was due to procure a new card machine in 2020/21 (page 22) but only set up the project team in 2021/22.

The DCLA promises a solution during 2022/23 in its Annual Performance Plan 2022/23. In the report, Minister Mbalula says that “the DLCA will introduce the highly secured driving license that is internationally recognised and procure the new state of the art driving licence machine that has higher capacity to meet the growing demand of the citizens of the country”. It also notes that the DCLA and RTMC are due to be integrated. “These are plans to ensure a lasting solution to the current driving licence card challenges,” says the Minister. The report says the DLCA should produce 2 million cards a year (page 62) and that 95% of these should be delivered within an average of seven working days (p73), but that this was dependent on having a new card machine “which did not happen”.

In June 2021, the DCLA issued an Expression of Interest (DCLA/EOI/2021/01 here and here) for the “provision of a solution for the personalisation, maintenance and support of driving licence cards production capability”, with a closing date of 9 July 2021. However, on the central government tender portal this is marked as “This tender has been closed not no bidding is allowed”.

In October 2021, the DCLA issued tender DCLA/2021/05 for a new card machine for new smart licence cards. The tender request for proposal says the DCLA “currently produces and delivers on average 2,5 million driving licence cards annually” and the new system should produce cards within three days. This tender is marked on the central government procurement portal as cancelled, due to “Change in circumstances Material Irregularity”.

OUTA could not find any indication of another tender being issued after that.

More information

Comment by Advocate Stefanie Fick is here

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