Feeling guilty about not renewing your driver’s license yet thanks to the pandemic? Don’t worry – you and about three million other South Africans are in the same boat… and the government is trying to figure something out.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has announced a few changes with our problematic Driving Licence Testing Centre (DLTC) systems in an effort to address the constant backlogs, lack of availability, and other issues in our licensing system.

He made the announcement on Friday at a media briefing in Centurion.

The big news for motorists is that the validity of licenses that expired between 26 March and 31 August 2021 will now be extended to 31 March 2022. The grace period applies to all learners’ licenses, driving license cards, temporary drivers’ licenses, and professional drivers’ licenses. According to Mbalula, there is a backlog of 2.8 million licenses that need to be renewed nationally but only 1.2 million renewals have so far been processed. This means that a whopping 42% of licenses must still be renewed.

Other changes that were announced include the following, according to Business Tech:

  • The establishment of more DLTCs
  • The introduction of mobile centers and kiosks at busy centers
  • Extended operating hours for DLTCs
  • The ability of DLTCs to accept online payments
  • The submission of eye tests by optometrists directly to NaTIS

Gauteng poses concern 

The largest number of expired licenses are in Gauteng, which has in the past year experienced significant capacity challenges and a lack of booking slots to renew licenses. Two more centers will be opened in Waterfall in Midrand and Eco Park in Centurion in efforts to relieve the backlog of approximately 437 819 expired licenses just in the province. “These two centers will open their doors on 1 October 2021 and will operate seven days a week, from 07:00 to 21:00. The operationalization of these centers will add 35 380 renewal slots per month and increase Gauteng’s capacity for renewal slots by 48%,” Mbalula said.

What does this decision mean? 

For now, motorists can continue driving with their expired licenses until the end of March. The Automobile Association (AA) has cautiously welcomed the extension but has concerns about how it will get done. “This all makes sense and will, hopefully, ease pressure on the system. But now it is all a question of implementation,” said AA. Another concern that the AA raised is the tight time frame saying that many motorists may be stranded without the necessary renewals, resulting in yet another extension in March.

Our advice? Try to get it done before March next year. Even if there is another extension, you don’t want this hanging over your head. 😬