Come 1 April 2022, South Africa will still have over one million motorists with expired driver’s licence cards, said the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).
As such, OUTA has called on the minister of transport Fikile Mbalula to extend the deadline of the grace period for expired driver’s licence cards in the country.
The minister last year announced a grace period for motorists whose licence cards expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021, allowing them to legally drive on the road until 31 March 2022.
Not extending the deadline could leave motorists with expired licences “at the mercy of overzealous or corrupt law enforcement officers who may use this as an opportunity to extort bribes from the motoring public,” said OUTA’s Adv Stefanie Fick.
“Administrative difficulties and significant backlogs in the renewal process of driver’s licence cards have been the order of the day long before the arrival of the pandemic or the breakdown of the card printing machine at the end of 2021.”
Fick said the problems we’re facing now are also largely due to difficulties in booking appointments through the traffic department’s online system.
“We already met with Minister Mbalula earlier in March to suggest that the Department of Transport extends the validity period of licence cards from five to ten years. This is in line with many countries and will go a long way to alleviate the administrative pressures on both the state and the public in this regard,” said Fick.
“We were promised a follow up meeting in two weeks, but as of today, we are still awaiting the Minister’s response to our proposals.”
Fick said that if Mbalula does not extend the deadline, law enforcement agencies should be instructed not to issue fines to motorists whose licence cards have expired in the past 12 months, as this may lead to “unlawful enforcement.”
“The public’s inability to comply with the regulations is largely due to the department’s incompetence and the public shouldn’t be punished for it,” she said.
“OUTA is considering a legal opinion that may lead to another civil disobedience campaign.”
Not on the “agenda”
In a recent interview with eNCA, reported on by BusinessTech, Mbalula said that it is not on his department’s “agenda” to extend the grace period for expired driver’s licences in South Africa.
“We think by April we would have been done with a backlog of around two million people,” he said.
“Hence my call to all people, go and renew your driver’s licence, and be in the queue to renew your driver’s licence card”
Following this move, AfriForum announced that it instructed its lawyers to prepare a letter for the transport department in which the organisation demands that the deadline be extended.
AfriForum said if the department refuses to extend the deadline, it will consider launching a court case, which could create legal precedent confirming that the public is being unlawfully punished for failed service delivery.
“Members of the public are honestly fed up with the weak excuses for the department’s shocking service delivery standards,” said AfriForum’s Reiner Duvenage.
“That is why AfriForum is taking action on behalf of its members and the public at large to put pressure on the Department of Transport to meet its obligations and provide proper service delivery.”