You could be driving into a Christmas nightmare
A labour dispute affecting driver's licences means 90,000 motorists are unknowingly headed for a nasty surprise at a roadblock
A labour dispute between a government transport entity and its workers, which affected the printing of thousands of driver’s licences, has left an estimated 90,000 motorists stranded.
In August, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande assured motorists that the strike, which has since been resolved, would not cause any delay in getting their licences. However, many motorists are believed to be unaware of the dispute or that they now need to return to licensing centres to get temporary licences – and that they are at risk of being fined if stopped at a roadblock and do not have one.
They will have to fork out between R45 and R90 – and get another identity picture taken – over and above the cost of a permanent driver’s licence.
The dispute began when 15 printing production staff from the Transport Department's Drivers Licence Card and Account [DLCA], which is the only body authorised to print SA driver’s licences, went on strike in June.
DLCA, according to the #NotInMyName Campaign, which helped brokered a resolution to end the dispute, is classified as a national key point.
According to #NotInMyName, DLCA’s former acting head, Collins Letsoalo, who was removed from his post last month by Nzimande, dismissed the workers after they went on strike.
Letsoalo confirmed to Times Select he had been removed from the position.
“It is the minister’s prerogative. I was only acting in that position, which I was appointed to by former minister Dipuo Peters.”
#NotInMyName secretary-general Themba Masango said they became involved in the dispute from a public interest perspective.
“The issue was affecting thousands of motorists across the country. Because the DLCA is the only entity which prints driver’s licences in South Africa it is deemed a national keypoint. The workers, who formed the production team, went on strike over monies which they felt they were owed since 1998. [Collins] Lestoane eventually dismissed them.”
He said because of the strike and the workers’ dismissal, a massive backlog developed, which was alleged to have resulted in the delay of the printing of an estimated 450,000 licences.
Masango said they had received calls from desperate motorists who pleading for help.
“The delays were costing people potential job opportunities and seeing them at risk of receiving unnecessary traffic fines. That’s why we got involved.”
He said the dispute was resolved last week when the workers were allowed to return to their jobs.
Masango said they were monitoring the DLCA’s plans to address the backlogs.
Department of transport spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said the strike ended on December 3 with workers resuming their duties pending the finalisation of the dispute at the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council.
“The dispute occurred during the annual production maintenance period, when production machines were serviced. In catching up with the July and August production period, the DLCA is now implementing a contingency plan to recover lost production time.
“Since the plan’s implementation, over 800,000 cards were printed and over 500,000 dispatched. The current production backlog is 90,000 cards. These orders have been prioritised to be printed in the next three weeks.”
He said that as an interim measure certain categories of motorists would need to apply for temporary licences, which were valid for six months.
“This will ensure that motorists comply with traffic regulations.”
Mnisi said motorists who did not need to apply were those who had renewed their licences three months before they expired.
“Those who do need to apply for temporary licences are first-time driver licence applicants and motorists whose licences expired by the time they applied to renew their licences.”
He said motorists with temporary licences should carry them at all times.
“If temporary licences has expired motorists do not need to reapply for new ones. If stopped they must produce their temporary licences and they will not be fined.
“If motorists are fined as a result of the delays, they must approach the Road Traffic Infringement Agency.”
On Letsoalo’s removal, Mnisi said he had performed his duties diligently, “and has been requested to focus his energy and skills to the Department and all its entities, including the DLCA”.
Motorists who want to check the status of their driver’s licences can do so by SMSing their ID number to 33214.