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By Roy Cokayne

Moneyweb: Freelance journalist

Outa mulling expired licence civil disobedience campaign

Outa has warned government not to start a war it cannot win with motorists over driving licences.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) is considering launching an expired driving licence card civil disobedience campaign.

It is demanding that the government extend the driving licence renewal deadline or instruct enforcement agencies not to issue fines to motorists whose driving licence cards expired in the past 12 months.

Outa previously successfully launched and maintained a civil disobedience campaign against the implementation of the e-toll system on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), with e-toll payment rates on the GFIP now below 20%.

The organisation’s demand follows the Department of Transport confirming last week there will not be any further extensions to the driving licence renewal grace period beyond March 31 for motorists whose driving licences expired during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

The grace period deadline applies to driving licence cards that expired between March 26, 2020, and August 31, 2021.

Outa estimates that there will be more than one million motorists with expired driving licence cards on April 1 and has warned the government not to start a war it cannot win with motorists over driving licences.

Outa accountability division executive director Advocate Stefanie Fick said on Tuesday the number of motorists with expired driving licences is a significant problem and not one that government will be able to wish away or dump in the laps of its citizens.

“The state cannot simply ignore this problem, as it will leave motorists at the mercy of overzealous or corrupt law enforcement officers who may use this as an opportunity to extort bribes from the motoring public,” said Fick.

“Administrative difficulties and significant backlogs in the renewal process of driver’s licence cards have been the order of the day long before the arrival of the pandemic or the breakdown of the card printing machine at the end of 2021.

“These problems are largely due to difficulties in securing bookings through the online booking system forced onto motorists,” she said.

Risk of ‘unlawful enforcement’

Fick said if the transport minister does not wish to extend the driver’s licence renewal deadline or the validity of driver’s licence cards, Outa has proposed that law enforcement agencies be instructed to not issue fines for motorists whose driver’s licences cards have expired in the past 12 months because “this may lead to unlawful enforcement”.

“The public’s inability to comply with the regulations is largely due to the department’s incompetence and the public shouldn’t be punished for it. Outa is considering a legal opinion that may lead to another civil disobedience campaign.”

Fick declined to expand at this stage on a possible civil disobedience campaign. 

However, she confirmed that Outa is also contemplating to what extent it can put its weight behind a campaign to assist motorists who are “unlawfully harassed” for driving a vehicle with an expired driving licence card and are fined or prosecuted.

Fick said the assistance Outa is contemplating is only for those motorists who have tried to renew their driving licence cards but were unable to do so through no fault of their own, which would make any fine or prosecution unlawful.

Although road traffic regulations state that the driving licence card of a motorist who has applied to renew their licence is valid for three months after its expiry date, Fick said some motorists will wait for up to six months to receive their new licence card.

Fick said Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula had himself said the grace period and deadline is for people who were unable to renew their driving licence during the Covid-19 lockdown and that the backlog of driving licence renewals caused by the lockdown will only be eradicated by September 2022, which is more than three months after the expiry of the renewal deadline.

Outa called on the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) to engage with it and other stakeholders to find meaningful solutions to this problem.

Fick said Outa met Mbalula earlier in March to suggest that the department extend the validity period of licence cards from five to 10 years.

“This is in line with many countries and will go a long way to alleviate the administrative pressures on both the state and the public in this regard.

“We were promised a follow up meeting in two weeks, but as of today [Tuesday], we are still awaiting the Minister’s response to our proposals,” she said.

Fick said Outa wrote to Mbalula last week to request that a further extension of the deadline be considered.

By Roy Cokayne

This article first appeared on Moneyweb and was republished with permission. Read the original article here.

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