How to get a driver’s licence in South Africa – A wink, a nod, and a bribe

An investigation by The Independent on Saturday revealed that bribery and corruption are rife at Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) centres across South Africa.

A 2017 investigation by Corruption Watch researchers found that corrupt practices were rife at centres which handle applications for learner’s and driver’s licences.

“Our analysis indicated that corrupt practices are acceptable even if deterrent measures such as cameras are implemented,” Corruption Watch said.

“It is often the officials who solicit bribes from prospective drivers, at times accomplished with the assistance of driving instructors.”

The organisation said young people, because of their social circumstances, often have no choice but to resort to being corrupt.

Numerous reports of corruption

Between 2012 and 2016, Corruption Watch received 420 reports about corrupt practices at licence centres around South Africa.

The most common form of corruption mentioned is bribery, which accounts for almost 93% of the reports.

“Prospective drivers are asked to pay money ranging from hundreds to thousands of rand just to receive a learner’s or driver’s licence,” Corruption Watch said.

“These prospective drivers are forced into being complicit in corruption because when they do not comply, their prospects of obtaining licences are much lower (if any).”

R2,500 for a driver’s license

One of the reports revealed that testing officers at at a testing station and the owners of driving schools are soliciting bribes of R2,500 from people wanting to get a driver’s license.

“People are asked to put the R2,500 into the cubby hole of the truck or car and then a middleman will take the money,” the report said.

Another person said they performed nearly perfectly on their driver’s test but was failed by the test officer, apparently because they had no money.

“There was a lady who went testing before me came back in 5 minutes and had passed meaning she didn’t do all the obstacles,” the person said.

The Independent on Saturday investigation

An undercover investigation by The Independent on Saturday confirmed the bribery and corruption problems highlighted by Corruption Watch.

“A wink, a nod and a couple of thousand rand will buy a driver’s licence – it’s no secret,” The Independent report stated.

The team found “blatant bribery at three KZN RTI (Road Traffic Inspectorate) centres”.

The corruption uncovered included questions and answer sheets for a learner’s licence test at a cost of R150 and passing a driver’s license test at between R2,000 and R2,500.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said he “noted with grave concern the phenomenon of applicant drivers paying bribes to testing inspectors in order to pass their driving licences”.

“All stakeholders in the transport sector agree it has a negative impact on all road users and should not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form,” said Mbalula.

Now read: South Africa still struggling with massive driver’s licence backlog

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How to get a driver’s licence in South Africa – A wink, a nod, and a bribe