Sleeping in cars overnight: This is Durban’s licensing chaos following closure of several key Post Offices
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Durban residents are being forced to start queueing from midnight ‒ with some even sleeping in their cars ‒ to renew their motor vehicle licences.
Post offices offering motor licensing services are also being closed, putting severe pressure on the public to ensure their cars are licensed ‒ especially with the festive season and an expected increase in traffic roadblocks.
Local resident Dees Ahmed said that with the Hyper By The Sea Post Office being closed last week and the Percy Osborne Licensing Centre closed for renovations, it was becoming increasingly difficult for Durban residents to renew their vehicle licences.
The reduction in available facilities to renew a vehicle licence, and with Covid protocols limiting the number of people to 100 being allowed in per day, was causing long queues to form outside licensing centres and post offices around the city, starting in the early hours of the morning.
Ahmed said he had been trying to renew his licence for a month.
“How do you get a motor vehicle licence? The government facilities are appalling and yet traffic officers are quick to impose fines,” he said.
Another resident, Des van der Spuy from Musgrave, said she had always used the post office at Hyper By The Sea in Durban North.
“They want us to be lawful citizens, but how can we be lawful citizens with the conditions they are giving us? The fact they knew the post office was going to be closed; why have they not put contingencies in place?” asked Van Der Spuy.
Service providers in renewing car licences, who did not wish to be named for fear of a backlash by licensing officials, said there were very long queues at motor vehicle licensing offices and post offices.
“Places are so congested, we have to start queueing from midnight. By 4am, you will be 20th in the queue. Some people sleep in their cars so that they can get into a queue early outside Umbilo,” said one provider.
He added that, as far as he was aware, the following post offices offered car licence renewals: Redhill, Broadway, Phoenix Plaza, Dr Pixley kaSeme Street (West Street), Chatsworth and Sanlam Centre (Kings Road).
He said the Broadway Post Office was hampered by very little parking, exacerbated by the closure of the post office at Hyper By The Sea,.
Another service provider said: “Percy Osborne (licensing centre) has been closed for over a year and it seems there are no decisions to fix it and the post offices are closing down pretty fast. Anyone who lives in Durban has to go to Umbilo (licensing centre). It’s been incredibly difficult since Hyper By The Sea closed (November 23).”
He added the new incoming AARTO system, which has stringent measures to ensure fines will be paid, was a “first-world system, but it has become extremely difficult to get a licence for your car”.
“As soon as your vehicle’s licence has expired, after 21 days, you will be paying penalties under the new system.”
He said motorists waiting in queues at licensing centres have had to take a day’s leave or more to get a car licence renewed.
“The department seems to forget that,” he said.
Thuba Zilane, spokesperson for KZN MEC for Transport, Peggy Nkonyeni, confirmed this week that the post office at the Hyper By The Sea had been closed “due to a rental issue with the landlord”.
“Currently the post office is looking for a new place to operate. They (post office) are complaining that the rent was very exorbitant and did not make business sense.
“We are aware that Percy Osborne licensing centre is still closed and undergoing renovations. This is adding a burden to motorists. We will be engaging with the post office management to expedite the process.
“Currently we are doing all we can, including operating on weekends. We humbly apologise to members of the public for this inconvenience,” said Zilane.
SA Post Office (Sapo) spokesperson Johan Kruger said on Thursday that for a post office to offer licence renewals, it had to be gazetted which is “a long, drawn-out process”.
“The SA Post Office merged some branches in the greater Durban area as part of a streamlining process. Some branch closures were not our decision, such as Hyper By The Sea post office, where the landlord did not renew the lease agreement.
“We have introduced separate queues for Sassa grant recipients at all bigger post offices. This is to make sure customers who visit the post office for a regular transaction, such as renewing a car licence, are served in the shortest possible time,” Kruger added.
In an email statement on November 23, Kruger said Sapo had been consulting with several stakeholders to obtain support for the new Post Office of Tomorrow strategy.
“The SA Post Office has been facing financial constraints partly due to restricted business activity resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. While measures taken by the organisation have helped to improve the revenue growth, these measures have not restored revenue levels to pre-Covid levels,” he said.
He added that as part of renewing the business model, the strategy included the launch of a mobile app for the renewal of motor vehicle licences online. This would entail either collecting the new licence disc from a post office branch or having it delivered to a work address for a small extra charge.
eThekwini Metro Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said there was a 21-day grace period after the expiry date of the car licence.
He said that only the national Minister of Transport could issue instructions on law enforcement to traffic departments with regard to issues such as car licensing.
“We are law enforcers and we will ensure that the law is enforced,” said Sewpersad.
The fine for an unlicensed motor vehicle or taxi is R800, while the fine for failure to display a motor vehicle licence disc is R200.
The fine for an unlicensed truck is R5 000, while the fine for not displaying a truck licence disc is R300.
Hyper By The Sea did not respond to a request for comment.
After hours renewal points
In a public notice issued by the KZN Department of Transport Facebook page this week, only three licence centres will be offering additional weekend operating hours for motor vehicle licensing during December: Verulam, Winklespruit and uMhlanga. They will be open on Saturdays (today, December 11 and 18) 7.30am to 12.30pm.
The notice detailed the following post offices for motor vehicle licensing facilities: Kings Road; Kloof; Westville; Chatsworth; Mobeni; Rossburgh; Umbogintwini; Durban; Redhill; Phoenix.
The Independent on Saturday