Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has said his department is working on initiatives to improve the experience of drivers in South Africa, including bringing a number of changes to driving licence testing centres (DLTC).
Mbalula made the statement in a parliamentary questions session, as reported on by BusinessTech.
In his response to questions, Mbalula also said his department is aware of a backlog of 500,000 driving licences at the moment.
He said his department will attempt to address this backlog and related issues through the changes listed below.
Extended working hours
Out of the nine provinces affected by the licence backlog, seven have extended working hours at DLTCs – including operation on Saturdays.
However, challenges relating to overtime in the remainder of the provinces have kept these from adopting the new operating hours, said Mbalula.
The number of additional working hours is dependent on the relevant DLTC.
Two self-service kiosks are being prepared for testing and are expected to roll out by October 2021.
It is not yet clear which DLTCs will receive these kiosks.
According to Mbalula, Gauteng poses the biggest challenge due to the large population of motorists residing in the province.
It is also the only province that has extensively deployed the online licence booking system that has been plagued with problems.
An email service for Gauteng-based residents who experience difficulty with bookings and licence renewals has been activated to help clear the backlog in the province, said Mbalula.
Mbalula said his department is in the process of introducing online payment systems at DLTCs, and that discussions are also underway for a new system that will allow qualified optometrists to upload eye test results directly to the Natis system to speed up the renewal process.
The Natis and Home Affairs online systems have been updated to share a single database, said Mbalula, and this will enable immediate validation of fingerprints at DLTCs and reduce delays.
A process to deploy new Natis end-user equipment in all provinces has also started, he said.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) is opening additional DLTCs, with staff working from 07:00 in the morning to 21:00 at night, for seven days a week.
This is expected to increase application capacity in Gauteng by 30%.
Extended grace period
In August, Mbalula’s department extended the grace period of all learner’s licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences, and professional driving permits that expire during the period from 26 March 2021 to 31 August 2021.
The new expiration date is now 31 March 2022.