Getting your driver’s licence renewed is like entering a madhouse

So I am going to be that person that complains (bitterly) about our stupid red-tape-obsessed system that our government insists on keeping in place. I will try to keep it short.

I (of course) woke up late to the fact that my license was about to expire, and started to frantically Google how to get a new one. As you probably know, you need to make an online booking for an appointment to do this. And, there are never any appointments available. Like…wtf? I need a license renewed, but I can’t do it because there are “zero slots available”. ??? So more Googling, and I soon found out that the Pretoria slots “open” at 7:30 on a Monday. I have no idea what that actually means, but when I logged in at 8am the following Monday there were about 500 slots available for Watloo for 6 January, three weeks away from the booking date. I have no idea how you get slots for a Tuesday. Regardless, I booked the slot (free, btw).

Then I waited patiently for Jan 6, was relieved that there was no scheduled loadshedding, and off I went. I got to Watloo, parked my car, went to the waiting area and was promptly told that the power cables had been stolen and the department had no electricity, and could therefore do nothing. I was welcome to wait. “For what?” “For the cables to be replaced”. Ha ha. I went home, exasparated. (The cables were only replaced early the next morning).

Now, you may be wondering what would happen to my appointment that I had now lost. I was wondering the same thing. The various people I spoke to (none of whom wear uniforms and just mix into the general crowd, so I have no idea whether I was speaking to anyone who actually worked there) gave me various versions of “tough cookies” to “come back tomorrow”.

I did go back the next day, and my name was on some printed sheet that was only checked because I enquired. Otherwise, NOONE CHECKED WHETHER I ACTUALLY HAD AN APPOINTMENT. Seriously, you can just rock up.

And when you do rock up, you better bring the patience of Job with you. You will need it. There are NO SIGNS, there is NO INFORMATION, there are hundreds of people, and all the people in “charge” have attitudes and really don’t want to help you. So take notes: If you are going to Watloo you need to go to Block 1, ask for the queue to pay, and stand in that queue as soon as possible. Everything will happen from there (you will eventually be given a form, you will have your photo taken etc. Technically you should do this before, but trust me…just stand in line and things WILL fall into place). Alternatively, go with someone else who also has a day to waste, and get them to stand in the queue for you while you do the stupid “admin” (that nobody will tell you about). And bring your own eyetest (from any optometrist, R50).

I stood in line for FOUR HOURS. Holy crap! Luckily I brought work with me, so I could not have cared less where I was (and you do get to eventually sit while you wait, depending on how long the line is when you join it). I was still in “holiday mode” so was determined to act chilled and unfazed, which I actually managed to do. But, like I said I had work (and an audio book too).

But here is the thing: the four hours I waited was ONLY TO PAY and have a photo taken. It’s not as if they asked me the rules of the road, or tested whether I indicate when I turn (I do). And honestly….if I can open a bank account online (and I can, without ever stepping foot in a bank. I did this recently for Discovery Bank) then why the hell can I not pay for my drivers licence online and have it couriered to me without stepping in a government facility????

There were about 350-400 people there that day. So 350-400 lost a day of work. And this happens every day, across multiple departments across the country. NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Oh, and I have to go back to pick up the damn card. Will they SMS me first to say the card is ready? NO. “Just come in four weeks to ask if it’s here”. What??????

Please, dear Lord, do not allow me to lose my license before the next 5 year renewal date, becasue I need about that long to recover from this ordeal…


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