Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has outlined his department’s plans to tackle the severe backlog of driver’s licence renewals.
Mbalula’s comments came in response to questions in Parliament from IFP MP Khetamabala Sithole and DA MP Chris Hunsinger, who wanted to know what the transport department was doing to deal with licence-related challenges.
Thousands of South African motorists have struggled to secure a booking to renew their licences on the new eNatis online booking system in the last few months, with the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) recently acknowledging it had a backlog of about 500,000 renewals.
The issue has forced the transport department to extend the validity of driver’s licences that were due to expire between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021 to 31 March 2022.
The biggest problems have been experienced in the economic hub of Gauteng.
The province’s transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo has blamed it on an inefficient and extremely corrupt system that has helped criminals make money.
This is based on allegations that individuals and organisations were manipulating the system to sell bookings for licence renewals.
Gauteng adopted an online-only system for motorists to book a slot to renew their licences. However, it is alleged that many of these slots are being slurped up and scalped by unscrupulous driving schools and testing centre insiders.
“We are fighting one of the most highly organised criminal syndicates,” Mamabolo said.
The MEC told eNCA that all 40 driving licence testing centres (DLTCs) in Gauteng were under forensic investigations to determine whether they were involved in corrupt dealings around the renewals.
The DA and civil action group Outa have proposed several measures which the department can implement to sort out the backlog, including allowing walk-ins and extending the validity of a driver’s licence from 5 to 10 years.
It appears that Mbalula and his department have not heeded these calls but instead will be implementing a range of other interventions to deal with the backlog in the coming months.
Below are some of the measures Mbalula mentioned in his answers to the MPs:
1. Additional capacity with new driver’s licence testing facilities (DLTCs)
Two more DLTCs will open in Gauteng on 1 October 2021 — one in Waterfall Park in Midrand and another in Eco Park in Centurion, which will add a further 35,380 renewal slots per month and increase Gauteng’s capacity for renewals by 48%.
2. Longer working hours
The new DLTCs will operate 7 days a week, from 7:00 to 21:00. In 7 of the 9 provinces affected by the backlog, working hours have been extended to include operations on Saturdays. The minister said challenges relating to overtime was preventing the extension of operating hours in some provinces.
3. New email service
A new “Request a slot” email service has been activated, allowing Gauteng motorists struggling to secure online bookings to renew their licences to request an appointment via email [email protected] and [email protected]
4. Online booking service
Mbalula said that processes were underway to introduce online payments. A controversial gazette has been published with details on this service, including the costs.
5. Private optometrists will be allowed to upload results
The RTMC is in discussions with the Health Professions Council of South Africa to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding which will allow motorists to make use of private optometrists who will have the authority to upload eye test results directly to the Natis system.
6. Mobile renewal centres
The RTMC will fit two buses with state-of-the-art equipment to serve as mobile centres to assist with license renewals. Once the RTMC registration as DLTC has been finalized, these buses will be deployed in Diepsloot and Alexandra. The planned deployment date is 1 October 2021.
7. New equipment
Mbalula said the deployment of new Natis end-user equipment has also started. The interface of live enrolment units with home affairs has been completed. This would enable the immediate validation of fingerprints and reduce delays, the minister said.