The Department of Transport will propose to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet that the validity period of driving licence cards in South Africa be extended from five to eight years.

That was revealed in a recent interview with transport minister Fikile Mbalula.

Mbalula’s revelation came after being asked whether the licence card’s validity period would be extended to 10 years, as proposed by several civil action groups and opposition political parties.

“We are changing the lifespan, timeframe of the driver’s licence…it will be eight years. We are going to cabinet with that,” Mbalula said.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, Automobile Association of South Africa, and Afriforum are among the entities that have called for an extension of the validity period.

Afriforum has even taken the matter to court, arguing that there was insufficient legislation to enforce the requirement.

All the advocating groups have maintained there was no logical reason for the validity period to be so short, particularly when looking at policies used elsewhere in the world.

Outa’s research found that the average renewal period in 35 countries was 8.5 years.

Despite disagreeing with Afriforum around legal particulars, it favoured a 10-year validity period, as this would lower the administrative burden on road traffic departments that have to handle renewals.

Mbalula previously defended the policy, claiming it was necessary because the material from which the licence cards were manufactured initially was believed to only last that long.

But the department has reportedly been considering extending the validity period as part of its plans to introduce a new licence card for the country.

Mbalula also responded to the news that the country’s current only driver’s licence printing machine had broken down for the second time in less than a year and created further backlogs in issuing new cards.

The breakdown was confirmed to MyBroadband by Eastern Cape acting chief director for transport regulations, Xolisa Jakula, following a tip-off from the reader.

Jakula said he was aware the machine had been out of action for two weeks.

This was followed by a statement from the transport department refuting media reports on the issue, claiming that the machine was running “smoothly” with “glitches”.

However, an interview with the acting head of the driving licence card account (DLCA), Kagiso Kgosiemang, revealed the machine had actually been inoperational for four weeks.

In his latest response, Mbalula said the card printer was like a photocopier and had to be serviced from time to time.

The minister denied there was a backlog in licence printing due to the breakdown, despite comments from Kgosiemang to the contrary.

Mbalula said the current machine will be decommissioned in 2023 and replaced with several new models that are currently being procured.

“We are moving away from that. We will have multiple ones, even faster,” Mbalula stated.

The DLCA will use these machines to print the country’s new, modernised licence card, which was approved by cabinet at the start of September 2022.

Mbalula did not specify whether the 8-year validity period would only apply to these new licence cards or current cards.

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