KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Transport MEC, Bheki Ntuli, has turned down a request by the Democratic Alliance (DA) that motorists in the province, who have been unfairly overcharged despite a grace period when it comes to vehicle licence renewals, be refunded or credited in 2021.
The incident took place during a meeting of the province’s Transport portfolio held yesterday.
Despite the damning admission by the ANC –led Department of Transport (DoT) – that motorists have been overcharged in penalties – the ANC failed to agree with the DA’s proposal that motorists be refunded or credited during licence applications in 2021. Yet, in a bizarre comment, the MEC later said that those who had been over-charged should alert his Department.
The DA regards this as the most frustrating situation for motorists in our province who it seems are now being fleeced of their hard-earned money. During the committee meeting, DA also raised the numerous difficulties facing those who are trying to obtain or renew licences. These include;
• Having to arrive at some Drivers Licence Testing Centres (DLTC’s) as early as 3am in order to make the quota system for the day
• The fact that some DLTC’s only see up to 35 people per day, allegedly as a result of fewer staff due to Covid-19
• That many people have been turned away from DLTCs on numerous occasions
• That people are expected to stand in long queues, usually without any chairs in the heat and the rain
Trucking companies in KZN have also been severely affected. Those who did not renew licences just before lockdown have now paid penalties which include the grace period, where they should only have paid penalties prior to lockdown and after the grace period expired. Not only have many been extremely badly impacted by the lockdown, they must put up with this added cost. This one way to kill our economy.
These are all ongoing issues which the DA has brought to the MEC and his Department’s attention several times in recent months, yet our concerns continue to fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, the overall situation is compounded by the fact that DLTCs are also dealing with the backlog of renewals created during the lockdown period with people whose licences are currently due for renewal competing for space in the queues.
That KZN remains the province with the highest licensing fees in the country is another aggravating factor. The very least the DoT could do is ensure proper service delivery. The DA believes that this should include the fast-tracking of an online renewal system in an effort to help reduce the backlog and inconvenience being suffered by so many people. Yet it seems that while the MEC and his Department are happy to talk about it, they are doing little if nothing to implement it.
The DA does not see the licensing backlog being addressed anytime this year. In the interim, we expect MEC Ntuli to put the needs of KZN motorists first and urgently apply to the National Transport Minister for an extension to the current grace period. He must also announce a proper plan going forward so that people know exactly where they stand. The MEC and his Department have a duty to help KZN motorists – not fleece them and make life more difficult for them.