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4 changes for drivers in South Africa – including longer hours at licensing centres

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says that his department is working on a number of initiatives to improve the experience of drivers

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says that his department is working on a number of initiatives to improve the experience of drivers, and increase safety on the country’s roads.

Presenting his departmental budget speech on Friday (21 May), Mbalula said that the initiatives will touch a number of areas including licences, new road rules and increased police visibility.


Changes for licences 

Mbalula said that his department has taken heed of a ‘plethora of complaints’ from members of the public around driver and vehicle licencing.

“The end-game of our interventions is improved service delivery and enhanced efficiency in the functioning of DLTCs, free of corruption.” he said.

“We have engaged as the three spheres of government and have agreed on a range of measures that will address the most pressing challenges relating to driver and vehicle licensing.”

Mbalula said that this will include:

  • Longer operating hours at licensing centres;
  • The use of technology to eliminate queues;
  • The introduction of an online interface for optometrist and medical practitioners to upload on the eNatis the eye test results.

Aarto from 1 July 

Mbalula reiterated his department’s commitment to the rollout of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto).

Over the medium term, Mbalula said that government has allocated R545 million to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) to fund the rollout. R215 million has been allocated for the current financial year, he said.

“We are on track with our target to proclaim 1 July 2021 as the effective date for the nationwide rollout of Aarto.”

Among other changes, the Aarto will penalise drivers and fleet operators who are guilty of traffic offences or infringements by imposing demerit points that could lead to the suspension or cancellation of licences, professional driving permits or operator cards.

It will also encourage the payment of fines and reduce the burden on South African courts, by removing the initial option to elect to appear in court.

The number of points incurred will be dependent on the nature of the traffic offence or charge. Currently, there are over 2,500 separate charges.

All drivers will start with zero points. Once the limit of points is exceeded, a driving licence is suspended for three months. Driving a vehicle during this ‘prohibition period’ is a criminal offense, subject to a fine or jail time.

If a licence is suspended for the third time, it will be cancelled, and a driver must start from scratch with a learner’s licence, etc.

Demerit points do decrease by one point every three months, so drivers can work their way back down to zero.


24/7 traffic police

Work is currently underway to change traffic policing from a regular job to one that is undertaken 24 hours a day and seven days a week, Mbalula said.

“We have made significant progress in this regard and have finalised all consultations with provinces, law enforcement authorities, as well as organised labour.

“The outstanding step is for each Provincial Executive Council to approve this determination, which will pave the way for the minister of public service and administration to place the matter before the general public service bargaining council.”


Body cameras 

Mbalula confirmed that body cameras will be introduced as a new standard to reinforce traffic policing across the country.

“The use of this technology will go a long way in gathering evidence on the interaction between the officers and motorists.

“This will undoubtedly improve the conviction rate of motorists who break the law, and deal a death knell to corruption,” he said.

The SAPS has already introduced new technology in its squad cars including built-in number plate recognition system.

Mbalula said that the technology enables traffic officers to scan all vehicles and know immediately if it has been stolen or if there are warrants for the owner and other important information.

The onboard system will also pull information from a national database including the driver’s licensing details, outstanding fines and traffic violations.

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