Driver’s licence problems: Minister should engage civil society to find lasting solutions
From killing the queues to rooting out corruption – are these just more empty promises by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to fix the chaotic driver’s license renewal process?
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.
“In order to improve your customer service, you need to consult your customers,” says Dominique Msibi, Portfolio Manager for OUTA’s Public Governance Division. “If government wants to find a solution for this problem, they need to treat the cause and not the symptoms. We need to see a complete system overhaul that is more innovative and convenient to motorists but that achieves what the driver’s license was set out to achieve in the first place. We also need to see a corruption proof system and a process that deals with incompetence in the public service.”
OUTA’s comments follows Minister Mbalula’s recent budget vote speech in which he announced that he will implement measures to improve the service the public receives when renewing their driver’s licenses. Mbalula also announced that the Department of Transport is looking into launching and rolling out new driver's license cards before the end of 2021.
The announcement on new driver’s licence cards was made despite OUTA’s request to Mbalula to consider changing the period of renewal for driver’s licences from the current 5 years to 10 years. “Since we wrote to the minister in September 2020, we have looked at the renewal process in a more holistic manner to find a practical solution for both government and driver’s license holders’ problems,” Msibi says.
OUTA is currently running a survey to expand on its research. This survey, directed at motorists, wants to get to the bottom of the challenges experienced with the current renewal process.
“The entire driver’s license renewal system is flawed, from beginning to end,” Msibi says. “New cards or a different booking system will only treat the symptoms, not the cause. In order to make an informed decision on tangible solutions, one needs to get behind the facts. We are not convinced that the Minister will address the issues effectively.”
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, amongst others.
“South African motorists need holistic solutions that are far more innovative, such as a driver’s licenses 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. “The Minister should engage in vigorous public consultation before he attempts to implement a final solution.”
A soundclip with comment from Dominique Msibi is here.