No ‘smart card’ driving licences for SA until next year

The introduction of a new smart card driving licence by the Department of Transport has been delayed until next year.

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula confirmed this week the plan to introduce a new driving licence card will be submitted to cabinet for approval early in the new year.

“Once that is done, then we will announce it to the public,” he said at an event where he released the preliminary festive season road fatality statistics.

Mbalula confirmed in May after delivering his budget vote speech that the Department of Transport (DoT) was looking at launching and rolling out a new driving licence card before the end of this year.

Read: New driver’s licence card to be introduced this year

DoT Director-General Alec Moemi said after Mbalula’s budget vote speech that the department was hoping the whole process to introduce the new driver’s licence card would be approved by cabinet by the end of June 2021.

“The rollout plan could then commence soon thereafter and the first of these cards could be produced before the year end of this year,” he said.

Mbalula said this week the current driving licence card is about 20 years old and the DoT cannot remain static but has to “move with the times” and cater for advances in technology.

Moemi said in May that the new card must meet the standard of the International Organisation for Standardisation.

He said in terms of the standards that have been agreed globally, the DoT has to move to a plastic card like the new identity document card that is issued by the Department of Home Affairs.

‘Easily forged’

Moemi said the material from which the card is manufactured is durable but also allows the DoT to embed new security features into the card.

“The old [existing] one, which is laminated, is much easier to forge and in a country like ours, the fraudulent acquisition of licences has been rife in the past and security features and technology available to the public is advancing at a rapid pace.

“State organisations have to ramp up security features to make sure that we are ahead of the curve of what the public can potentially produce,” said Moemi.

“The assessment now is that the current licence can easily be forged with what is now available on the market. The inks are not that highly specialised and are now readily available to the market.”

Mbalula confirmed this week that the security agencies in South Africa have looked into the planned new driving licence card and the DoT is now heading to cabinet for approval.

“When that is done, we will launch it,” he said.

Renewal backlogs

Mbalula also expanded this week on plans he announced in August to streamline the driving licence renewal process for motorists, to reduce the backlog after reporting that nationally 42.4% or 1.2 million licences have not yet been renewed out of a total of 2.8 million licences that have expired since March 26, 2020.

Read: Mbalula extends driving licence renewal period, says system is ‘a mess’

The measures included increasing capacity by opening two Driving Licence Test Centres (DLTCs) operated by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) – one at Waterfall Park in Midrand, and the other at Eco Park in Centurion – on October 1.

These centres were to operate seven days a week from 7am until 9pm, add 35 380 renewal slots per month and increase Gauteng capacity for renewal slots by 48%.

More new measures

Mbalula said this week that new measures will be introduced in the renewal process “to make driving licences easy for everyone”, adding that the Waterfall DLTC is the model the DoT is now implementing.

“You get in, in less than 10 minutes you get out. Your driving licence is renewed. That is where we are heading to,” said Mbalula.

“Not this sloppy, inept, corrupt arrangement we have got in some of the DLTC[s] where to get a driving licence is a nightmare,” said Mbalula.

“You have to bribe before you get a licence.

“We are eliminating that in the system.

“If we do that, that is real service delivery and that is where we are heading to.”


Automobile Association (AA) spokesperson Layton Beard said in May that the driving licence card system is broken and needs to be fixed first before the introduction of a new driver’s licence card is considered.

Beard said the more pressing and urgent need is fixing the system so that the process allows the actual delivery of cards.

Moneyweb reported last week that on November 7 there had been a breakdown of the machine that produces the current driving licence card.

The DoT confirmed that as at December 1 there was a backlog of 383 000 driving licence cards because of this breakdown.

“The team is hard at work to address the problem. The team is doing everything possible to restore the machine to full functionality before December 31, 2021,” it said.

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