The grace period for expired driver’s licences in South Africa, which would have ended on 31 March 2022, has been extended to 15 April by transport minister Fikile Mbalula.
All learner licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences, and professional driving permits that expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021 are deemed to be valid until the end of the extended period, said the minister.
Mbalula is scheduled to provide more details on the announcement after a meeting on 1 April, reported BusinessTech.
For the time being, the following regulations will apply:
- Motorists who apply to renew their driving licence cards before 31 March 2022 will have their driving licences valid for a further three months on the condition that they are in possession of their old driving licence cards
- They must also have proof of fees paid for the application to renew in the form of a receipt.
Motorists who apply after the expiry date will also be required to apply for a temporary driving licence.
On 25 March, the transport department said it is on schedule with clearing the current backlog of licence renewals and it expects to be finished by September 2022.
Legal action threatened
The longer grace period comes after several large stakeholders in the South African automotive space threatened to take legal action against the transport department for refusing to extend the deadline.
Early in March, AfriForum instructed its lawyers to prepare a letter to the department demanding an extension. Failing to do adhere could have ended up in a legal battle between the two parties, said AfriForum.
If the matter went to court, AfriForum said there could have been a “legal precedent” confirming that the public is being unlawfully punished for failed service delivery.
Following this move, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) said it is “considering a legal opinion that may lead to another civil disobedience campaign” should the department not extend the deadline.
OUTA said that over one million South African motorists were expected to be stranded with an expired licence card come April, which would have effectively criminalised them through no fault of their own.
Not extending the deadline could have left 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.
In line with this, the Automobile Association (AA) also said we may have seen “a massive spike in the number of traffic fines issued to motorists in the next couple of weeks and months” if the deadline wasn’t extended.
Along with the extended grace period, all the parties concerned called on the government to increase the validity period for driver’s licence cards from five to 10 years as a long-term solution to some of the problems it is facing.