Durban - A broken printing machine has resulted in a backlog of at least 124000 driving licence cards across the country.
This comes after DA MP and member of the transport portfolio committee, Chris Hunsinger, warned the Department of Transport about the lack of a back-up plan during an oversight visit last year in the wake of another backlog.
“The facility is totally dependent on one machine which is already very outdated compared with international standards, with limited scope for modernisation,” he said.
In August last year, Hunsinger visited the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA) facility, which reports to the Department of Transport and is the only operation printing all driving licence cards for provincial and municipal licensing centres.
The Mercury previously reported that the DLCA team produced about 450 000 licence cards a month.
Hunsinger said he expressed concern that there was no back-up if something happened to the printing machine.
He said at the time of the oversight visit, staff and officials were worried about the risks involved.
“The DA regards this situation as unacceptable since we raised these issues at the time and directly with the department and the minister,” said Hunsinger.
The machine should have been replaced years ago, he said, adding that more than R640million of the 2018/2019 transport budget was not spent and could have been used in this situation.
“The DA will address this matter and apply pressure to assist frustrated licence holders who are affected,” he said.
In an interview with eNCA, Maputla Makgatho of the DLCA said the backlog was caused by a combination of a broken production machine and the division’s Christmas production break.
Makgatho said work resumed on January 6.
He said the machine, which is more than 20 years old, was maintained annually and that a contractor was called in to fix it.
“Soon the department will be (issuing) a tender to procure a new machine during the 2020/2021 financial year,” said Makgatho.
To catch up, he said, the production team would work overtime to reduce the backlog and to meet production needs.
“In a matter of two months, those cards would have been produced.”
The 2019 backlog was caused by a labour dispute at the DLCA which began in July 2018. Hunsinger said the backlog then reached nearly 400000 cards.
“At the time, I also requested the minister to engage on the matter since the issuing facility falls directly under the Department of Transport and isn’t a separate entity,” he said.
At that time, the department said those who renewed their driving licences three months before they expired, and new applicants who applied for temporary driving licences, would be taken into consideration by traffic authorities.
Those applying for licences after they had expired must by law obtain a temporary one to avoid consequences.
The department assured drivers last year that if a temporary driving licence had lapsed because of the backlog, motorists did not have to reapply, but would have to produce their expired temporary licence when requested.
Layton Beard, spokesperson for the Automobile Association of South Africa, said the present backlog was a huge concern that needed to be clarified and rectified as soon as possible.
Beard said people wanted to be solid citizens and to drive with the right documentation.
“The motorists deserve better, and if they are going to go through the process of obtaining (documentation), they deserve the process to work,” he said.
A real concern, he said, was that these motorists could be stopped and fined.