Bad news for driver’s licence cards in South Africa

The validity period of South African driving licences will not be extended to eight or ten years according to transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga.

This follows former transport minister Fikile Mbalula’s statement in September 2022 that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet had approved the motion to do so.

However, transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga told Moneyweb that this is no longer in the works and that the validity period will remain five years.

Chikunga said the decision to increase the validity period was made after Mbalula commissioned an investigation.

This investigation was to study international trends concerning driving licence validity periods.

According to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), it wrote to Mbalula in September 2020 to request that the card’s validity be extended to ten years.

A short study was provided to the former transport minister showing how this would save both motorists and the government money.

A year and a half later, Mbalula announced that he had commissioned the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) to conduct the investigation.

“On the basis of that research, which we will compare with other countries, we will then [decide] on the status quo of five years as it stands, [and whether it] is beneficial or counterproductive,” Mbalula said in February 2022.

“Should we arrive at a conclusion informed by the research, we will immediately spring into action.”

Later that year, Mbalula confirmed that cabinet had approved the decisions to extend the validity period to between eight and ten years and introduce a new smart card driving licence.

How long should the validity period be?

The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) spokesperson Layton Beard previously told MyBroadband that the organisation was in favour of ten years but welcomed eight as a step in the right direction.

The AA also believes that the renewal process must continue to include the requirement for an eye test to ensure motorists are physically capable of driving safely, but that the validity period itself does not play a vital role in road safety.

“There are many other things that have a more direct impact on road safety than the validity period of a licence,” Beard said.

On the other hand, road safety specialist and managing director Rob Handfield-Jones believes that driving licence cards should never expire and consider them wholly unnecessary.

“It is an outdated concept from an era before connected devices,” Handfield-Jones said.

He argues that the most fraud-proof solution would be for an officer using a networked device at a traffic stop to verify the underlying licence record via a person’s ID number.

Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said having cards expire every five years was unnecessary, and time-consuming and costly for motorists.

“Besides this, for many years, the Department of Transport has been unable to deal with the backlog, which is another reason we suggested this change, to alleviate the pressure on the department.”

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Bad news for driver’s licence cards in South Africa