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Driver’s licence renewal: Transport department’s Mr Fix should focus on his broken service delivery system

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Shapshak is editor-in-chief of Stuff.co.za and executive director of Scrolla.Africa

Like several hundred thousand other Gautengers, my driver’s licence has expired. I’ve tried to book a slot to renew it, but finding an ANC staffer who has been paid their salary is easier than getting any kind of booking at a traffic department. A friend’s desperate daughter sat outside the Sandton testing ground for four hours recently.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

The estimates of expired licences are huge, more than the broken system can accommodate. The system has been usurped, like so much else, by con artists and middlemen, who have bribed corrupt officials so that the only way a hapless motorist can renew their driver’s licence is to pay a bribe. It’s not even a secret.

Everybody knows. And, like so much else, nobody in government does anything about it. Inexplicably.

Just as I feared I would be made a criminal because the grace period would expire, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced the amnesty would be extended until next year.

Finally, Mr Fix, as he loves to call himself, has been able to fix something – by kicking the problem down the road and extending the truce until next March. Meanwhile, over on Planet ANC they have the problem in hand. It’s all about motivation, is how I think Gauteng transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo was trying to explain.

I caught his 702 interview with Mandy Wiener, where he was holding forth on the “platforms” this service is available on. One is web-based, the other in an app and two are good old email.

I haven’t heard email called a platform for at least a decade, except by a government lackey caught in the crosshairs of media attention for failing to do his job at all. At the very least, one would imagine part of the job description of an MEC for transport, especially for the province that is the country’s economic heartland, is to make sure the corrupt criminals don’t break the system, and to actually get licences issued.

Mamabolo told Wiener that about 130,000 people hadn’t shown up for their appointments.

Is he the only person in the country who doesn’t know about the rampant corruption in the licensing system? In case he doesn’t, let me mansplain it for him: corrupt employees within the licensing department and traffic centres work with so-called agents (a fancy name for scamster or con artist) who block-book all of the available slots and then sell them for a handsome profit. Corrupt staffers get a kickback.

Instead, the MEC has to go on radio and TV and grant innumerable media interviews to explain exactly what the difference is between “book a slot” (as practised by, well, everyone on the internet every day) and “request a slot”.

So, I googled “request a slot” – expecting at the very least that someone in government had thought of buying a few Google ad words, before organic growth kicked off. I couldn’t even find the relevant government website, which luckily I already know.

At least Mamabolo admitted to eNCA that “we are fighting one of the most highly organised criminal syndicates, that has been making lots of money from an inefficient and extremely corrupt system”.

I felt slightly reassured that I wouldn’t be fleeced when I arrived at the licensing station I selected – but not that it wouldn’t happen down the process. My calm immediately dissipated when the MEC displayed such an alarming lack of knowledge about cybersecurity that I shuddered.

“The eNatis system is in a secure location, in an area that is classified as a national key point,” he blurted out. “The system is highly protected.” It is “for the IT technicians and experts to protect the system further”.

Welcome to the ANC’s future, where even the most basic of government services have been overrun by criminal syndicates – and all the officials can do is ask citizens to “request a slot”.

Mamabolo went on and on in every interview I heard or read about “partnership with the people”.

I don’t want to partner with the government. I want them to deliver the services that we taxpayers fund – not use meaningless words like ‘partnership’ to explain away the state’s inability to rid itself of the corruption it has allowed to take root. This is unlikely to ever happen with the current crop of, frankly, underwhelming ANC politicians. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Sue Malcomess says:

    Well stated. I find it incomprehensible that after years and years the booking system can’t be fixed. Is there a will to fix it?

  • Dick Binge Binge says:

    Even the initial concept of a 5 year renewal was a scam to make money. It has not stopped the road carnage.
    Scrap the whole system.

  • Debby van Zyl van Zyl says:

    Brilliant article

  • Ross Norton says:

    Does anyone know why we need to have our driving licenses renewed every 5 years? They don’t test your ability to drive at this renewal. They only check your eyesight. I can see that older drivers (like me) may need to confirm that their eyesight is still ok but for the majority of drivers this serves no purpose other than to collect revenue (and consume productive people’s time in the process). I heard a rumour that the machines used at the testing stations for driving license renewal we’re sold to the Dept by a Gupta owned company…… Perhaps Pieter-Louise Myburgh could check😏

    • Charles Parr says:

      My understanding is that Schabir Shaik licenses the software that coverts the photograph to a bar code and gets a royalty for each and every license issued hence the renewal every five years. The software was developed by a South African but the DoT would not purchase it from him and so it was sold to a French company that in turn licenses it to Shaik’s company, Nkobi.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Surely one cannot still be surprised that the State and all its functions are captured?

  • Louis Potgieter says:

    Postponing of deadlines per se will not help the problem. Only an expanded processing capacity, capable of catching up a backlog can. Queue length is an indication that demand is not being met. When last was there not one at a processing centre?

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