In light of the ongoing driver’s licence backlog in South Africa, the Western Cape Department of Transport (DoT) wants the grace period for expired cards to be extended past March.
If the grace period is not extended, South African citizens will need to apply for a temporary driving permit and pay for it out of their own pockets.
Speaking to eNCA, the Western Cape transport MEC, Daylin Mitchell, said government failures shouldn’t cost South African citizens.
“It can never be that the citizens must pay the price for the government’s failures,” he said.
“People shouldn’t be paying for something that they do not have control over.”
Mitchell said that he expects the backlog to still exist when the grace period concludes on 31 March.
“Government needs to step in, and I mean we need to be realistic, the 31st of March is going to arrive, and we can have this discussion again, and there will still be a backlog,” he said.
The country’s driver’s licence renewal backlog had reached nearly 400,000 applications at the start of December 2021, partly due to South Africa’s only driver’s licence printer breaking down the month before.
However, a logjam was already forming even when the machine functioned correctly.
Mitchell explained that no matter the reason for the backlog, South African citizens should not have to fork out more money.
“Now, whether it is a direct government failure or a technical or mechanical issue, the bottom line is that the citizens cannot pay for that,” Mitchell said.
Daylin Mitchell, Western Cape transport MEC
Transport minister, Fikile Mbalula, announced that South Africa would be getting a new driver’s licence printing machine and new licence cards “at par with the developed world”.
However, the transport department’s Driving Licence Card Account division only expects to begin using the new machine in a pilot phase from October 2023.
Mbalula has also said the total backlog of driver’s licences that will have expired by 31 March currently stands at 2.1 million nationwide and is expected to climb to 2.9 million by September 2022.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse wants the validity of South Africa’s driver’s licence card to be extended from five to ten years to address the backlog.
Mbalula has said that the Road Traffic Management Corporation has begun an internationally benchmarked study into the viability of extending the expiry period of South Africa’s driving licence card.
No impact on insurance claims
South African insurers — including King Price, Hollard, and Auto & General — previously told MyBroadband that licence cards expired due to the backlog would not impact their customers’ claims.
Rudolf Britz, a spokesperson for Momentum Insurance, reiterated this point.
“We’re really concerned about those people who are not licenced or whose licences have been revoked for some transgression they may have done,” he told eNCA.
“So in a case where your licence isn’t updated because the machine couldn’t print it, that wouldn’t affect the outcome of that claim.”
Britz warned that if there’s a suspicion a driver involved in an accident has had their licence revoked, insurance companies won’t be as lenient.
He also explained that the fact that people’s licences have expired is often not pertinent to many insurance claims.
“One thing that we can do and we’ll keep on doing is try to be reasonable with how we view any licencing requirements and try not to penalize the consumers where the materiality of not having a renewed licence is really not the case in point for many of these claims,” he said.
Hollard and Auto & General told MyBroadband that an extension of the validity period would have no impact on insurance premiums.
“The extension of the validity period will not affect premiums — the important issue is that the driver has a valid licence, not how long it takes to renew the card proving this,” Hollard said.