South Africa is getting new driver’s licence cards — What needs to change

South Africa is set to get new and improved driver’s licence cards before the end of 2023, but industry stakeholders have pointed out that the main improvements in the licencing system don’t need to wait until then.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has been vocal about a revamped driver’s licence card that will feature advances to align it with international standards.

The government is also working on allowing South Africans to use the card as official proof of identification.

That would make the card more useful beyond being required for driving.

It could eliminate the need to take an ID or passport when applying for credit or carrying out other business requiring identification verification.

Current licence cards only feature the driver’s initials and surname, not their full names, which can be a sticking point for service provides

An early design of the licence card provided by the department shows a section for the holder’s full names.

New driving licence card design

MyBroadband spoke to Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) spokesperson Layton Beard and Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s CEO Wayne Duvenage about what changes they would like to see in the driver’s licence card system.

Duvenage said from a technical perspective, the card should meet international security requirements to ensure that it had merit in foreign countries.

Beard said a key criterion was that the card should be tamper-proof, making it difficult to replicate and easy for traffic officers and others to spot a fake.

While security is critical, it should not cause delays in delivering cards to motorists.

The licencing process was thrown into turmoil after the only card printing machine in the country broke down for more than two months between November and January following a power surge at the Government Printing Works building.

The government has defended its use of the single machine in a single location as a way to prevent fraudulent card printing.

But Beard said the centralised approach was not working and that production capabilities should be split up.

“We would like to see a situation where cards are manufactured not only in one place, but in two or three places across the country,” Beard said.

“That is going to mean that people get their licences a lot quicker, but it also means if there is a fault with one of the machines, you’ve got backups to deal with this.”

Duvenage is also hoping that the purchase of the new card printing machine or machines will be transparent, at the lowest costs possible, with high efficiency and in the best interests of society.

People waiting in queue to renew their driver’s licence cards

While they had little else to say on the card’s technical features, both Beard and Duvenage called for a more robust but easier licence card application process.

“Getting that card needs a lot of attention. That is where the system, at the moment, is not optimal,” Beard said.

“There needs to be an improvement at the Driver’s Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs) in terms of how you apply for a new or replacement driving card.”

Beard said DLTC systems needed to be world-class, meaning they should be available all the time and must be capable of handling large numbers of people.

Duvenage said any new technology should reduce manpower needs, be quicker in its output and improve the department’s overall productivity.

“If it is able to do so, there should be redundancy and the ability for the department to reduce its headcount and costs to society.”

Just make it valid for ten years

The AA and Outa also agree on extending the minimum validity period of a driver’s licence card.

“We have done the research, and many countries around the world have a 10-year validity period,” said Duvenage.

“We hope the minister announces his decision on this matter as soon as possible. He is behind on this announcement.”

The AA has also called for an extension of the card’s validity period.

Beard said that the renewal process should depend on performing an eye test that can be uploaded online, eliminating the need to stand in a queue and wait for a machine that does not work.

Now read: Mbalula promises the absolute last final e-toll announcement

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South Africa is getting new driver’s licence cards — What needs to change