Transport minister Fikile Mbalula plans to launch new driver's license cards before the end of 2021. Picture: REUTERS
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula plans to launch new driver's license cards before the end of 2021. Picture: REUTERS

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula used his transport budget speech on May 21 to highlight some of the challenges faced by his department and resolutions to pave a way forward.

Along with increasing the working hours of traffic officers, one of these ways is the intention to introduce body cameras as a new standard to reinforce traffic policing.

“The use of body cameras will go a long way in gathering evidence on the interaction between the officers and motorists, and will undoubtedly improve the conviction rate of motorists who break the law, and deal a death knell to corruption,” said the minister.

However, the Automobile Association (AA) says increasing the working hours of traffic law enforcers and introducing body cameras for them to wear will alone not solve SA’s road safety crisis.

“Much, much more needs to be done, and a blueprint for better traffic law enforcement is on the table. We have to question why it has not received more attention by the department of transport or the minister,” the AA said.

“We currently have a situation where government is introducing new laws, or amending existing laws, believing legislation will somehow improve the country’s road safety crisis,” said the AA.

The AA also noted that the minister yet again missed another deadline to address the future of the e-toll system in Gauteng.

Mbalula is also looking to review the mandates of the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) and the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA), paying particular attention to the challenges confronting Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs) across the country, and how their problems affect the livelihoods of citizens.

Mbalula says extending DLTCs’ operating hours to the weekends is being considered as well as more use of online interfaces to streamline services such as the idea of enabling optometrists and other medical practitioners to upload customer eye test results on the eNatis system. This would allow citizens to choose their own medical practitioners at their convenience, to help ease the long queue challenges faced by DLTCs.

The system should run concurrently with conventional testing methods to accommodate rural areas and citizens who don’t have access to the internet.

The minister plans to launch new driver’s licence cards before the end of 2021. Unlike the current laminated version, the department is looking to introduce a credit card type version that will be difficult to duplicate. A new digital driver’s licence is also being mooted.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) says it is not convinced that anything will change if the minister does not consult meaningfully with civil society to find solutions for the problems raised by frustrated motorists. 

“The entire driver’s licence renewal system is flawed, from beginning to end,” says Dominique Msibi, portfolio manager for Outa’s public governance division.

“New cards or a different booking system will only treat the symptoms, not the cause. Outa’s research indicated that there are a vast number of complaints from motorists as well as those responsible for the administration of the system. This includes IT problems resulting in administrative systems that are offline, short office hours, lack of payment options, appointments made but not adhered to and long queues, among others.

“SA motorists need holistic solutions that are far more innovative, such as a driver’s licence digitally registered and linked to their identity document cards. This can then automatically be updated by optometrists once a client had done their eye tests, but it remains to be seen if the minister is serious about addressing the real problems”, Msibi concludes.

With Denis Droppa

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