Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring


My two driving tests will forever be reminders of human decency

After not setting a foot, or rather a wheel, in a driving licence testing centre’s test yard for almost three...


After not setting a foot, or rather a wheel, in a driving licence testing centre’s test yard for almost three decades, I paid this dreaded facility the second visit this week. The two visits could not be more apart, yet they are connected profoundly. The first time around, a wide-eyed matric laaitie showed up on a typical windy winter’s morning in East London. Nervous as hell, I navigated my way through the yard test before embarking on the road test at a snail’s pace. ALSO READ: Polo Vivo GT timely reminder of how much fun driving can be So slow…

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After not setting a foot, or rather a wheel, in a driving licence testing centre’s test yard for almost three decades, I paid this dreaded facility the second visit this week. The two visits could not be more apart, yet they are connected profoundly.

The first time around, a wide-eyed matric laaitie showed up on a typical windy winter’s morning in East London. Nervous as hell, I navigated my way through the yard test before embarking on the road test at a snail’s pace.

ALSO READ: Polo Vivo GT timely reminder of how much fun driving can be

So slow that it irked the examiner. But examiner Dove, an elderly gentleman who, according to my driving school teacher, wore two hats to compensate for his somewhat challenged vertical dimension, kept it to himself.

In fact, his composed demeanour during my display of cautiousness brought calmness to the situation that was probably key to me passing the test amid butterflies. We parted with him, saying, “You drive alright, just a bit like a grandmother”.

And those words were very much top of the middle-aged cynical bastard that attempted to obtain a licence for riding a motorcycle this week. The dusty confines of the Randfontein DLTC amid a heatwave was not my venue of choice, but the dismal online booking system leaves you rather desperate when your learner’s licence is about to expire.

ALSO READ: MasterDrive: Defensive driving key to being a better driver

But in my case, it could have been fate. Unlike Mr Dove, examiner Lebele does not lack any physical presence. His large frame could easily intimidate his subjects, especially when they are standing next to the bike, looking up at him.

And though I’d hate to admit it, plenty of butterflies were left nine months short of 30 years on. But once Mr Lebele opens his mouth, his calmness will put anyone at ease. Soft-spoken with an excellent sense of humour, he switched to Afrikaans after asking me which language I would prefer. And an excellent Afrikaans, too, despite his mother tongue being Tswana.

Before I knew it, the yard test was done and dusted with little drama … or butterflies remaining. When getting my new licence card, the two codes, A and EB, will merely reflect the vehicle categories I’m allowed to drive by law.

ALSO READ: Top 10: South Africa’s best driving roads mapped-out

But for me, their meaning goes beyond their legal implication. To me, they’ll forever be timely reminders of human decency.

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