NATIONAL NEWS - With its petition to #ExtendtheLicence fast approaching 20 000 signatures, the Automobile Association (AA) says it believes this is an important message from the public of South Africa to the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, to urgently extend the validity period of licences.
As of Wednesday evening, 15 July, the petition had already garnered 18 000 signatures since its launch on Friday 10 July.
“The support for this campaign has been incredible. We expected the petition to resonate with motorists but this level of involvement has been truly amazing. Given the support so far we expect the petition to pass 20 000 signatures this week, and far exceed that in the next few weeks,” says Willem Groenewald, CEO of the AA.
The AA launched the petition to urge the minister to extend the validity period of licences beyond 31 August, which is currently the cut-off date for the validity of, among others, vehicle licence discs and driver’s licences.
In early June, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) announced that “All Learner’s Licences, driver’s licences, motor vehicle licence discs, temporary permits, roadworthy certificates and professional driving permits (PrDPs) that expired during the period that commenced from 26 March to 31 May, are deemed valid and their validity period is further extended with 90 days from 1 June to 31 August 2020”.
The AA is, however, concerned that the concession does not take into account licences which expired after 31 May, nor the reduced capacity of Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs) to renew driving licences, and of the South African Post Office to process discs.
In a letter to the Minister on 29 June, Groenewald noted that there are problems with the current legacy operational framework of the DLTCs combined with unforeseen circumstances such as Covid-19 which make it difficult for them to service drivers within that timeframe.
He said that the current National Traffic Information System (NaTIS) on which people must book appointments continues to be problematic and that centres may be closed intermittently due to Covid-19.
In the letter Mr Groenewald wrote, “Our experience is that the majority of drivers in South Africa prefer to remain compliant with the regulations, and to be on the road legally. Despite the system being problematic, drivers take the necessary steps to ensure they remain within the law. However, given the current constraints on the system, many are faced with the real possibility that they may not be able to do this”.
An added issue, Groenewald noted, was that drivers who are unable to renew discs or driving cards may have problems if they are involved in crashes as insurers may repudiate claims based on the fact that the drivers are not on the road legally.
The #ExtendtheLicence petition calls for the current extension period to go beyond 31 August to the end of January 2021.
It says this will give the DLTCs enough time to process some of the backlog, and provide motorists with breathing space to get their licences renewed without the threat of legal action or complications relating to insurance claims.
“Our proposed extension date also makes provision for the closure of DLTCs over the festive period, and for further potential closures as a result of Covid-19,” Groenewald earlier noted
In support of the Minister resolving the problems, the AA has offered its national network of agents to assist drivers renew their licences. The association says the minister should consider allowing third party agents – such as the AA – to perform vehicle disc and driving licence card renewal services which are currently only offered through the DLTCs and the post office.
It said that not only will this go a long way in dealing with the current and historical backlogs, it will also alleviate the pressure on the DLTC infrastructure going forward.
The AA has not received a response from the minister nor his office to the letter sent at the end of June.
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