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Smart card driving licenses in South Africa planned for October 2023


South Africa’s Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has reiterated plans to introduce a smart card driving license format in the country from next year, as part of efforts to address some of the country’s driving license issuance woes.

Mbalula reiterated this during a recent briefing in which he stated that an approval from cabinet is being sought, after which a tender process will be launched to select the contractor, as reports Tech Central.

First mooted in 2021 when the South African government initiated the move to replace the current laminated driving licenses with ‘smart card’ versions, the licenses would be available only by October next year if things work out as planned.

Mbalula told Tech Central: “We are in the process of seeking cabinet approval for the design of the new card this year. This will then be followed by a procurement process that will enable us to pilot the card and introduce the new card in October 2023. Once we start issuing the new card, we will phase out the current card over a five-year period, which should allow the current cards to expire.”

The license will also play the role of an identification document, per the Transport Minister, who has also disclosed that a panel of experts has been constituted to study requests for the possibility of extending the validity of the new document to ten years, up from the current five.

Meanwhile, Tech Central also quotes the Automobile Association as calling on the government to look at the problems around applying for license renewal online, if the introduction of a new format should have any meaning.

According to the association, the novelty by the government is a welcome move, but appropriate steps have to be taken in order to deal with the problems which have rocked the license production process in the past.

Mbalula also announced that the production of licenses resumed last month after the process was halted in November due to a breakdown of one of the printing machines. The breakdown triggered a backlog of nearly 400,000 cards in just a couple of weeks. He stated that the backlog was at nearly 600,000 as of 1 February, but made assurances that steps were being taken to produce about a hundred thousand cards a week to catch up with the demand.

Other reports quote the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA) – the body responsible for issuing licenses in South Africa – as saying the smart card license will be designed with advanced security features using blockchain technology to check data theft and forgery, ensure durability and international recognition, among others.

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