The 35 000 people who were caught driving in Cape Town without valid driving licences in the first six months of 2008 represents just the tip of the iceberg.
Among the excuses offered for this state of affairs by the ANC is the long waiting periods for aspirant drivers to get appointments for tests.
ANC councillor Werner Scwhella said he was “deeply concerned” about the number of people driving without licences.
“The question is whether people are merely ignoring the law or taking a chance driving without a licence due to the long waiting periods,” he added
Kroll Background Screening CEO Ina van der Merwe said while it was true that there were long waiting periods at testing stations, this did not excuse those opportunistic drivers who took the short cut and bought their licences from crooked officials.
“Many jobs require the employee to be on the road. Rather than not work, many employees choose to drive illegally. Also, in instances where a drivers licence is a pre-requisite for employment the employee chooses to rather buy a fake drivers licence than risk not getting the job. Unemployment levels are very high, and people have become desperate,” she said.
According to the Metro Police’s quarterly report, Cape Town’s traffic department dealt with 19 234 unlicensed drivers and just under 11 000 unlicensed vehicles in April, May and June.
Acting safety and security director Heathcliff Thomas said the waiting period for a new licence was nine months nationally but that Cape Town was doing “relatively well” in reducing the waiting time to an average of six months.
With government admitting that only a “hand full” of the 90 000 bogus drivers’ licences that are currently used by drivers have been cancelled, background screening companies are compelled to certify these illegally obtained licences as valid lending further credence to
Willie Hofmeyer, head of the Special Investigations Unit told parliament that his investigators had visited 350 licensing offices and had scrutinised 1,4-million files. From this investigation it became clear that 91 596 drivers’ licences were invalid.
“The present situation is making life extremely difficult for background screening companies who are compelled to certify a licence as valid until such time as it had been cancelled by the Department Of Transport.
“We believe the number may be much higher because last year the transport department’s Wendy Watson confirmed that up to 50% of all drivers’ licences were “suspect”, Van der Merwe said.
Kroll Background Screening, the largest credentials verification company in South Africa, processes millions of enquiries relating to the authenticity of drivers’ licenses, passports, degrees and diplomas.
“One of the major problems that we face is that some of the holders of these bogus licences may end up driving busses putting the lives of thousands of commuters at risk.
Van der Merwe has urged the department to address the problem with a greater degree of urgency and to get the bogus licences out of circulation.
“Human lives are at stake here and the sooner we get these bogus licence holders off our roads the safer it will be for the rest of us”, she said.
Equally important was to shut down the licensing offices where many of these bogus licences were issued, she said.
Van der Merwe said more than 18% of all documents sent to her company for verification turn out to be fake.
For more information, please contact Nina de Winter at Kroll on 012 644 4000 or on her cell 082 787 9890