Punishment for expired license cards illegal

The civil rights organisation AfriForum is filing court papers today to oppose the requirement for driving license cards to be renewed every five years. It wants this requirement to be declared invalid and reviewed. AfriForum demands a declaratory order that the National Road Traffic Act regulations, to the extent that it limits the renewal period for driving license cards to five years, are ultra vires, unreasonable, arbitrary and vague. The application further seeks a declaratory order that motorists cannot by law be penalised or fined for not being in possession of a renewed driving license card as no such penalty exists.

AfriForum argues that substantial legal and practical grounds exist for its application to succeed. From a legal perspective, the National Road Traffic Act and regulations are too vague to be workable. The legislation does not clearly distinguish between a “driving license” and a “driving license card”. It neither explicitly states that motorists must apply for new license cards upon expiry. It does not even state that it is a crime to drive with an expired license card nor prescribe any fines, penalties or sanctions.

“The legislation is not clear, concise and internally harmonious enough to enable the general public to know with a degree of certainty what is expected of them. Furthermore, the legislation is ultra vires. In other words, the government cannot punish members of the public if it cannot clearly show what law is being transgressed. Any such punishment amounts to a violation of rights,” says Reiner Duvenage, campaign officer for strategy and content at AfriForum.

From a practical standpoint, the Department of Transport’s well-documented administrative, operational, and financial struggles make it unfeasible, unreasonable and irrational to require drivers to renew their license cards every five years. The application further stresses that many countries worldwide opt for a license card system that does not require such frequent renewals.

“It is outrageous that there appears to be no legislation validating the requirement for driving license cards to be renewed every five years. Therefore, if our application is successful, it will leave the Department of Transport with egg on its face as it would mean that it has been wrongfully punishing the public for years. This could truly be a watershed case in the history of South Africa,” concludes Reiner Duvenage. 

AfriForum has launched a website where members of the public can add their voices to support this court case.

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