Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
5 minute read
20 Nov 2020
5:00 pm

Mr Fixit needs to fix this: NADA’s open letter to Mbalula about license delays

Ina Opperman

The vehicle sales industry in South Africa can help to restart the economy, but its efforts are severely hampered by the major delays in the transport department to license drivers and cars.

For illustration. Picture: Cars.co.za

A quick fix for the problems being experience by the vehicle sales industry’s woes would be for the minister of transport, who calls himself Mr Fix, to simply extend expired licenses, but instead he has announced other measures that will not speed up the process.

The inability to renew or register new vehicle and driver’s licences has now become a major issue, and the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA), have called on minister of transport, Fikile Mabalula, to urgently address extensive administrative delays in document turnaround times and vital operational systems that are drastically impacting motor vehicle sales in South Africa. NADA is a professional body representing the interests of 1 340 businesses that own, operate, and manage new and used vehicles,

“This is having a dramatic knock-on effect in the industry, with many related businesses unable to do business and secure much needed income at this critical time. In an economy crying for help, the motor industry has a significant part to play to contribute to its revitalisation.”

According to NADA South Africa needs to support the sector with the necessary infrastructure commitments while motor dealers and consumers are willing to invest in time and money. It welcomes the work that has been done in recent weeks to increase capacity across the country in support of drivers’ licence renewals, but says this is just one administration in a chain that supports the trading of new and used vehicles in the country.

NADA also claims that its requests to assist the department in addressing these issues have gone unanswered since 24 August and meanwhile, direct value continues to be lost across the motor industry value chain due to lost deals from the simple inability of licensing departments to make transactions possible.

Hurting small businesses and the economy

“This is severely hurting the economy that could be forging a better path were it administratively possible. In addition, there are many small business entrepreneurs who should be focusing on building their businesses instead of having employees queuing for driver’s license renewals and chasing new vehicle registrations.”

NADA says the automotive industry is highly dependent on municipal licensing departments to license, register and issue roadworthy certificates, all key legislative requirements when buying and selling vehicles.

“The backlogs at these departments have resulted in a material slowdown in vehicle sales that could have been mitigated. There are extensive delays at licensing departments nationally where document turnaround times have shifted from one-day processes to as much as a month or longer.

“The delays in issuing eNatis documents impact sales directly and the shortage of face value eNatis documents is delaying vehicle registrations. Roadworthy test centres have additional delays in processing certificates, with Gauteng and KZN implementing arbitrary restrictions on the number of vehicle inspections per day, which is only contributing to the broader backlog slowing down the motor industry’s recovery.”

Significant delays in drivers’ license renewals are also leading to declined finance applications due to missing documentation and without a valid license, new owners cannot insure new vehicles.

There is a simple solution

NADA believes that these issues have a simple solution and want to talk to the minister about this.

“Over and above the solutions already implemented by the minister, the extension of the validity period of learner’s licenses, driving license cards, license discs, professional driving permits, and registration of motor vehicles for a further six to twelve months while the backlogs are worked through will also help.”

According to NADA these quick, simple, and practical solutions would permit economic activities to function in the interim and protect law-abiding drivers who are prejudiced by the current inability to renew license cards or vehicle discs and register new cars.

“South Africa urgently needs these matters addressed to halt their devastating impact on the success of the retail automotive industry and the revitalisation of the economy.”

Esethu Hasane, the minister’s media liaison officer, said in response that the minister has seen the letter and made some commitments last week to extend the validity of licences to deal with the backlog in the system. He added that the minister agrees and accepts that there has been challenges, worsened by the lockdown.

He did not respond to questions about the minister’s failure to respond to NADA’s requests to assist the department to address these issues since 24 August, or why the minister is so reluctant to extend the validity period of learner’s licenses, driving license cards, license discs, professional driving permits and registration of motor vehicles for a further 6 to 12 months while the backlogs are cleared.

Mbalula last week announced the following measures to ease the backlog until it is cleared:

  • 70% of capacity, human resources and equipment at Driving License Testing Centres (DLTCs) will be dedicated to servicing expired driving licence card renewals and professional driving permits (PDPs)
  • 70% of slots on the online booking system will be dedicated to expired driving licence cards and PDPs
  • Two satellite centres will be opened at the RTMC offices in Centurion and Midrand
  • A task team has been established to advise the Gauteng Department of Transport on the procurement of mobile centres
  • An operations centre was opened on Monday to monitor operations at DLTCs daily and evaluate the availability of booking slots
  • Extended operational hours will be introduced with centres opening from Monday to Sunday from this week
  • All DLTCs falling under the Tshwane metro will open from 06:00 from December.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.