The Department of Transport says that it is still not ready to make any official announcement on extending the validity of driver’s licences in South Africa beyond five years, as engagements are still ongoing.
Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said that the decision on whether to extend the validity of driver’s licence cards beyond the current five years period will be made once all engagement processes have been finalised.
The minister recently appeared on ENCA, confirming that the licences’ validity period would be extended, adding that his department would approach cabinet with a proposal to extend this to eight years.
“We are changing the lifespan of the driver’s licence – it will be eight years,” he said. “We are going to Cabinet with that. There is a lot we are doing.”
Civil action groups in South Africa, including Outa and Automobile Association, have been pushing the government for years to extend the validity of driving licences from five years to 10.
Responding to Mbalula’s comments on ENCA, Outa’s executive director of accountability, Stefanie Fick, said that an extension to eight years is still significant and will be good news for motorists.
However, she said that no one has yet seen a formal proposal or the research used in the decision from the government.
“We suppose it comes from the research that the minister requested from the RTMC – we haven’t seen it. We have requested it,” she said.
Data provided by Outa shows that across the world, the average period of licence validity was 8.5 years, ranging from three to 20 years. Africa and the Americas had the lowest periods at five and six years, respectively, while the Middle East/Asia, Australasia and Europe had the highest at 8.6 years, 10 years and 11.5 years, respectively.
Civil society organisations have argued that there are no negative safety implications extending from a validity period that is above five years.
Mbalula said that South Africa’s current driving licence and the machine that prints it – which has broken down twice in a year – will be replaced in 2023 by a new system from a new service provider linked to smart cards.
The current machine was introduced in 1998 and will be decommissioned in 2023. South Africa is in the process of procuring new services linked to “smart driving licence cards”.
Cabinet gave its approval in September to replace the present driver’s license card with one that adheres to international standards and has more secure design elements. There will be multiple new machines across the country that will also be able to print cards faster, the minister said.
Until then, “to mitigate the risk of breakdowns, thus ensuring business continuity, the DLCA performs preventative maintenance on the machine twice a year. Furthermore, there is a maintenance contract in place from the original equipment manufacturer,” he said.
Read: 5-year driving licence renewal period will be extended: Mbalula
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