Civil rights organisation AfriForum says that the apparent reason for the five-year driving licence card renewal period in South Africa is due to the quality of the material of the card, which would not last more than that period, citing court documents filed by transport minister, Fikile Mbalula.

Further reasons to motivate the renewal period are scant, it said.

AfriForum, the Automobile Association (AA), and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) have taken legal action against the five-year renewal period with Afriform arguing that there is insufficient legislation to enforce this requirement. It also comes after years of backlogs and administration failures by the government.

Mbalula said in a recent interview that his department is ready to look at amending the five-year validity period that currently applies to driver’s licence cards in South Africa.

“We are also looking at the duration time. It is five years, but in terms of the national land transport act, that issue is not very clear that it has to be five years,” Mbalula told SABC News.

Mbalula announced in February that a team at the Road Traffic Management Corporation would compile a report with a focus on how extending licences to 10 years could impact safety and revenue.

He said his department completed the research on the matter.

“I’ve got the report now, and I’m ready to go to cabinet with new proposals to probably re-look at the five years in terms of the driver’s licence,” the minister said.

AfriForum said that Mbalula himself admitted that the legislation does not make it very clear that the driving licence cards must be renewed every five years.

“However, in an interview during which he made this statement, he referred to the wrong legislation. Mbalula claimed that it is the National Road Transport Act that determines the renewal period when it is the National Road Traffic Act that actually determines the renewal period,” it said.

AfriForum argues that driver’s licences are permanently valid, citing the National Road Traffic Act.

AfriForum said that its legal action aims to obtain a court order stating that the legislation that purports to prescribe the five-year renewal period for driving licence cards is unreasonable, arbitrary, and vague, as well as that motorists may not be punished if they drive with expired driving licence cards.

It said that it has requested from the court that the renewal period of driving licence cards should be reviewed and scrapped.

“AfriForum’s legal action will play a key role in bringing an end to the five-year renewal period of driver’s licence cards, as the government is not known for keeping its promises. It is extremely encouraging for AfriForum’s court case that the minister himself admits that the legislation is unclear about the renewal period of driving licence cards,” said Reiner Duvenage, campaign officer for Strategy and Content at AfriForum.

“In addition, the court record shows that it is an entirely inadequate and irrational explanation to prescribe the five-year renewal period simply because the material of the driver’s licence cards allegedly cannot last longer.”

Read: South Africa ready to review 5-year driving licence