Five-year driving licence pain in South Africa

Automobile Association (AA) spokesperson Layton Beard says the organisation was surprised to hear government was no longer considering extending South Africa’s driving licence validity period.

Transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga recently revealed that South Africa’s driving licence cards will remain valid for five years.

This came despite promises from former minister Fikile Mbalula that the department would table a proposal before cabinet to extend the period to eight years.

Beard told MyBroadband that the announcement was surprising, considering government researched the matter extensively.

“We’ve always had the view that anything from eight to 10 years is a more reasonable validity period than the current five years,” said Beard.

“We were led to believe that this was something that was going to be presented to cabinet in terms of a way forward.”

“We quite surprised that it hasn’t happened,” he added.

These promises came from Mbalula in October 2022, when he said he would propose an extension to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

However, Chikunga has now confirmed that the proposal was never presented to cabinet for approval.

Beard said it remains unclear why the proposal wasn’t tabled before cabinet, considering it would ease the administrative burden on government in the long run.

“They commissioned research, and they said the research supported the view that the validity period should be extended,” he said.

“The fact that it wasn’t put in front of cabinet is something we’d like to understand. We’d like to know what the reason behind it not being tabled was.”

Road Traffic Management Corporation CEO Makhosini Msibi told Moneyweb that the validity period will remain five years for the foreseeable future.

He said a study was conducted to determine if the validity period could be extended. He also claimed that the argument was that the period should be extended by 20 years or be timeless.

Layton Beard, Automobile Association of South Africa spokesperson

Msibi said the validity period specifically relates to drivers’ health, including conducting regular eye tests to verify drivers’ vision.

He added that multiple accidents are related to communicable and other diseases, making these regular health and eye checks critical.

Beard said he was unsure of what Msibi referred to when he linked eye health and communicable diseases.

However, he said that the AA views eye tests as “almost a non-issue”, with many motorists opting to visit opticians to perform the tests.

“Currently, there are many DLTCs that can’t perform eye tests because their machines are broken,” said Beard.

“So people are, in any case, going to private opticians who are registered, and then they’re taking the eye tests with them to the DLTC to renew their licence.”

“We don’t see why this system can’t continue and, in fact, be beefed up,” he added.

Beard said linking the eye tests to a system that police officers could access would allow officers to verify motorists’ eye tests when stopped.

Fikile Mbalula, ANC secretary-general and former minister of transport

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) supported Mbalula’s plan to extend the licence card validity period to eight years, describing it as a step in the right direction.

However, it previously told MyBroadband that it wasn’t happy with his approach to passing the legislation.

“Outa is of the opinion that an extension to eight years is a move in the right direction,” it said.

However, it noted that no one had seen a formal proposal or the research used to reach the proposed eight-year period.

It also said that Mbalula could approve the extension without tabling a proposal before cabinet.

It said the minister himself could publish new regulations in the Government Gazette, which can be done without cabinet approval.

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Five-year driving licence pain in South Africa