• New driving licence cards have been approved for South Africa.
• The new cards will be piloted from 1 November 2023.
• The Road Traffic Management Corporation has also urged motorists who applied for licences between October and December 2021 to collect their driving licence cards.
The driving licence system is still problematic for many South Africans, but now the government has approved replacing the current driving licence card with a new one with more secure design features. The new card will also comply with the international driving licence standard, Transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced in a media briefing on Friday, 2 September, in Johannesburg.
Mbalula said the current driving licence card was introduced in 1998, and the production equipment was procured in the same year. “The technology has become obsolete,” he said.
Changes to the driving licence card will be published in the government gazette. “This will enable us to commence the procurement process for the new production infrastructure in October 2022,” he explained.
“The new card will be piloted from 1 November 2023 until 31 March 2024”, Mbalula said.
According to the transport department, the current driving licence card and the equipment used to produce it will be decommissioned on 1 April 2024. There will be a five-year transition period from the old card to the new one. The minister said the current cards will be recognised as valid licence cards until 31 March 2029.
Previously, Mbalula had said the department would evaluate the possible driving licence card validity period. Since this announcement a few months ago, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has undertaken a benchmarking exercise covering 64 countries to research the validity period of driving licences worldwide.
“The research revealed that countries ranked above South Africa, according to the World Health Organisation, have an average driving licence card validity period of 9.3 years, and countries ranked lower than SA have an average of 4.4 years.
“Many of the poorer road safety ranked countries still use paper-based driving licences, which would explain the lower average validity period in these countries,” the minister said.
“The average driving licence card validity period of almost 10 years is applicable in developed countries, with much better road safety ratios than South Africa. This is important in validating a longer renewal period in line with international best practices. Most of the EU countries have a five-year validity period for heavy vehicles,” he said.
Mbalula added that the transport department and the RTMC were evaluating the options at their disposal, informed by the South African reality.
“This includes carnage on our roads, driver competence and prevalence of lifestyle diseases that influence safe driving. We have consulted with MECs on the matter and received full review support.
“Once we have made a final determination on this matter, this will be communicated accordingly,” said Mbalula.
Despite the announcement of new cards for the country, the RTMC urged motorists who had applied for their new driving licence cards between October 2021 and December 2021 to collect them as soon as possible.
The RTMC also warned applicants that regulation 108 of the National Road Traffic Act empowered centres to “deface an unclaimed driving licence card 120 days” after motorists were notified to collect their cards, compelling them to re-apply and pay the costs again.