South Africa is getting a new driver’s licence card in 2023 — What to expect

Staff Writer12 January 2023

South Africa is getting a new driver’s licence card in 2023 — What to expect


South Africa will start trialling a new driver’s licence card in late 2023, if plans outlined by transport minister Fikile Mbalula at the end of last year come to fruition.

The country’s current driving licence cards have been in use since 1998 but will be phased out over the next six years as they no longer meet international technology standards.

The single machine used by the department’s Driver’s Licence Card Account (DLCA) division to print the cards is also slated for decommissioning. It will be replaced with a new machine capable of producing the updated card.

The two-decades-old printer has suffered several breakdowns that led to severe backlogs in issuing licences.

The updated card will include smart card technology and be aligned with the International Information Technology Personal Identification Compliant Driving Licence (ISO18013) standard.

This will ensure it is better protected against counterfeiting and modification, can hold more data, and opens it up to authentication through various additional systems.

Its security features will include biometric data, holograms, and watermarks. The DLCA previously said it might also incorporate blockchain technology into the new card system.

In addition, meeting the ISO18013 standard will make the card suitable for more seamless use in countries outside of South Africa.

A transport department tender document revealed the card’s basic layout and design in November 2021. The various components of the card’s design are shown in the images below.

New driver’s licence card design (front)New driver’s licence card design (back)

The transport department previously said the trial of the new card would start on 1 November 2023 and run until March 2024.

Presumably, by this time, the old printing machine will be decommissioned, as the last expiry date for old licence cards with five-year validity periods will be 31 March 2029.

In addition to its modernised design, the new card will be valid for eight years instead of the current five, which means motorists will have to visit their driver’s licence testing centres (DLTCs) less often.

The extension of the validity period comes after pressure from various organisations and opposition parties who questioned the need to re-apply for a new card so frequently when other countries around the world had much longer validity periods.

Among these critics were Afriforum, the Automobile Association of South Africa, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, and the Democratic Alliance.

Mbalula had earlier defended the relatively short validity period as necessary because it was thought that the materials used in the first licence cards made with the current machine would only last that long.

DLTC upgrades and online renewals

Even when motorists do have to renew their cards, the department’s planned upgrades at DLTCs should make the process much easier and faster than in the past.

This includes expanding a smart enrolment system for booking and renewing licences that was trialled in parts of Gauteng since last year, including at newly-launched DLTCs in Centurion and Waterfall in Midrand.

The system links directly with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that the applicants’ photos, fingerprints and other information are verified and captured in real-time.

Smart DLTCs have also been launched at the Midrand and Centurion Gautrain stations, offering licence card renewals, temporary driver’s licence applications, and traffic fine payment services.

In addition, the department plans to roll out 43 more satellite branches at South African banks with which it is currently negotiating. These discussions are expected to be completed by the end of March 2023.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation’s eNatis website also added the ability to book and pay for a licence card renewal online in early 2022.

Motorists who use this facility must still visit a DLTC for fingerprint capturing and eye tests. The department plans to collaborate with optometrists to allow users to submit their eye tests online.

The feature is currently only available in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, with each province’s transport department left to decide whether and when they will enrol on the platform.