After battling for months to book a driver’s licence renewal appointment online, spending several hours in my local driving licence testing centre, and waiting six weeks for my new licence card to be produced, the nightmare of renewing my driver’s is still not over.
This was the discovery after queuing outside a testing centre this week to collect my new driver’s licence card – which I was instructed to do six weeks after I visited the centre to renew it – only to be told “it’s not ready” by an apathetic official.
“Do you know when it will be ready?” I asked.
“No. Come back in two weeks” she said, not glancing up from her clipboard.
“Will you be able to send me a notification of when it will be ready?” I asked.
And that was it, I was sent away empty handed.
People are not happy
The only solace of the situation was that I was not alone.
Multiple people ahead and behind me in the queue, who were there to collect their licence cards, suffered the same fate.
I spoke to a middle-aged man who said this was his third time coming to collect his driver’s licence card, and being told it was not ready.
He has subsequently been waiting for three months since he completed his renewal to receive his new card, and will have to return for a fourth time in two weeks to see if the card is ready.
The more drivers I spoke to who were turned away, the more told me they had received the “come back in two weeks” instruction more than once.
The only thing more surprising than the number of people who were battling to get their licence cards was the lack of anger or disappointment from them.
Yes, they were not happy about having to come back again, but they were not upset or outraged. They appeared so used to poor service from driving licence testing centres that being turned away with no help or guidance was par for the course.
Fortunately, there is some reprieve for South African motorists who are stuck in this quandary.
Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula recently announced that the grace period for those with expired driver’s licence cards has been extended to 31 March 2022.
All learner licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences, and professional driving permits that expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021 will received this grace period.
It must be noted, however, that licences which expire from 1 September 2021 onwards are not covered by this grace period, according to the department of transport.
This comes amidst government officials openly admitting that the country driver’s licence renewal process is a mess and needs major fixes.
This includes Mbalula stating that his department is aware of a backlog of 500,000 driving licences.
This is an opinion piece based on real-world experiences and tests.