Motorists with expired licence cards must keep any proof of attempts to renew their cards to show traffic officials should they be pulled over.
This is the advice from Outa’s executive director of accountability, Stefanie Fick, after the grace period to renew expired licence cards lapsed on 5 May 2022.
The grace period applied to motorists whose licence cards expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has warned that law enforcement officials would ramp up efforts to punish those who continued to drive with expired cards.
However, Mbalula and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) said traffic officials would consider mitigating factors.
For example, many motorists successfully renewed their cards but are still waiting for them to be ready for collection.
RTMC CEO Makhosini Msibi said drivers should keep their old licence cards and receipt of renewal on hand to avoid penalties.
The RTMC said more than a million drivers had still not renewed their driver’s licence cards at the start of May.
For those whose licence cards expired outside the grace period window — cards can remain valid for another three months after expiry, provided you have proof that you applied for a new card.
However, neither Mbalula nor the RTMC addressed the predicament of those who have struggled to get a booking slot online or failed to finish their appointment at a driver’s licence testing centre due to administrative problems.
Outa’s Stefanie Fick told MyBroadband that documentary or photographic proof of attempts to renew, together with an expired licence card, should be enough to convince a traffic officer that you did not intentionally refuse to renew your licence.
“Always keep your driver’s licence card and proof with you. A screenshot of or the official booking should be enough, in my view.”
“You can write an affidavit if you want, but I doubt it will take the matter further,” Fick added.
Fick rebuffed the transport department’s claims that it had done everything it could to clear the obstacles that prevented people from renewing their licences.
“We agree with the principle that the motorist should abide by the law. However, we are of the opinion that the department should make it possible for the motorist to abide by the law,” Fick said.
“The online booking system is a mess. They admitted to having a backlog they can’t seem to reduce.”
Outa expects the number of fines issued due to expired licence cards to increase in the coming weeks, with one particular goal in mind.
“It appears that traffic fines are considered a money-making business,” Fick said. “It should really be about giving South Africans the services we pay for.”
She stated the RTMC’s new application fees for its online booking system and the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act were definite indications that money was a factor.
“Taxes should be used to curb road deaths and to make our roads safer, not giving fines under circumstances where the state is unable to manage their own processes,” Fick said.
She added that corruption and service delivery should be addressed as well.