New driving licence card for South Africa coming in 2023

Staff Writer5 January 2023


South Africa will trial a new driving licence card in 2023.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced at the end of last year that the current driving licence cards would be phased out, with the printing machine that produces them being decommissioned in 2023.

A new system will be introduced with driving licence cards linked to smart-card technology. The department previously noted that a trial on the new cards would run through to March 2024.

Current cards will continue to be recognised as valid until 31 March 2029, the department said, with Mbalula also noting that the validity period for the cards would be extended from five to eight years.

The current card being used in South Africa was introduced in 1998 but now fails to meet international standards regarding the technology it uses – it has also become costly to maintain the old infrastructure around the current card, Mbalula said.

“The new proposed card will make the country’s driving licence compatible with the International Information Technology Personal Identification Compliant Driving Licence (ISO18013),” he said.

The International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) notes that certain physical and data attributes are necessary for licences.

ISO said that the new standard allows for the card to be more secure from counterfeiting and alteration, integrates more personal data and allows for more opportunities to authenticate the document, among other things.

A new driving licence card in South Africa will have improved security features, including biometric data, holograms, and watermarks, to reduce fraudulent licences and improve road safety.

Discussions on a new card date back to the start of 2022, when the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA), the sole producer of licences in the country, said that the new ‘smart card’ might even allow for blockchain integration.

“The introduction of the new driving licence involves a new design of the driving licence card and the re-engineering of processes to allow for agility and focus on delivering services efficiently and quickly.”

“The project will allow for the adoption of digital technologies such as blockchain and other related technologies, which will form the platform of an integrated transport system,” said the DLCA.

Over the course of last year, the singular machine that prints driving licences faced technical failures, resulting in major backlogs.

According to Mbalula, the machine is to be decommissioned sometime this year, and new machines spread across the country will be acquired to print the smart cards at a greater rate.

Other developments

The new driving licence card is just one of the initiatives motorists can look forward to in 2023. Other developments include setting up more smart systems to better handle applications and renewals, as well as an expansion of the offices where this can be done.

In March 2023, the transport department is expected to go live with a new ‘smart enrolment’ for booking and renewing licences.

Trials in testing centres across parts of Gauteng have been taking place, including offices at Waterfall City and Eco-Park Driving Licence Testing Centres, which were the first to launch these services.

The new enrollment system is said to mitigate standing in a long queue waiting for a time-consuming data capture process to finalise. According to the department, the system assists applicants in capturing details during booking a timeslot to appear at a centre.

Before visiting the physical licencing centre, the system integrates directly with Home Affairs online and ensure that photos, fingerprints and other information are checked and captured in real-time.

‘Smart’ Drivers licence testing Centres (DLTCs) have been launched at the Centurion Gautrain station as part of the transport department’s partnership with the Gautrain Management Agency.

Licence card renewals, temporary driver’s licence applications and traffic fine payments can all be processed at the facility.

The transport department is also anticipating the rollout of 43 more satellite branches at South African banks once agreements with the participating banks are signed in 2023. It said that negotiations with banks are expected to be concluded by the end of the current financial year (ie, March 2023).