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Licence queue chaos

Early risers, some having brought their chairs, wait for the 8am opening of the Umbilo vehicle registration centre. Duncan Guy

Early risers, some having brought their chairs, wait for the 8am opening of the Umbilo vehicle registration centre. Duncan Guy

Published Oct 16, 2021


“Dealer” is the magic password.

It distinguishes those who register vehicles on behalf of others, charging a fee, from the suckers standing for hours in long queues at the Umbilo licensing offices to make the 100-a-day quota of people allowed in.

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Irate members of the public told the Independent on Saturday, that the incompetent and likely, corrupt system forced the public to either fork out money to the so-called “dealers”, or wait, often in vain, to be among the first 100.

“We have to stand here like this because we don’t want to pay bribes or pay extra when we shouldn’t have to,” said one irate woman.

She said “dealers”, better described as agents, charged between R150 and R350.

Back in September last year, when the Goble Road vehicle registration centre was still open, queueing was still not for the faint-hearted. Picture: Mazwi Xaba

Yesterday, just before the 8am opening time, people who appeared to be “dealers” of one kind or another, threatened this reporter and deleted cellphone photographs of them arguing with people in the queue.

“Let us delete the photos, not put them in the recycle bin, or we'll ‘moer’ this f*** phone on the road and shatter it into millions of pieces on the f***g ground. You don't just f***g come take photos. We'll nail you under the Popi (Protection of Personal Information) Act.”

Earlier in the week, when this reporter used the word “dealer” at the gate, at the suggestion of frustrated people in the queue, he was let in immediately.

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Provincial transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the department was aware of fraud within its ranks and efforts were being made to root it out.

However, he denied agents were being given preferential treatment, saying that their large volumes of documents were only processed over weekends.

He said the problem lay with “opportunists” exploiting the public by offering them places in the queue at a price.

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People in the queue said these dealers arrived as early as 1am to offer their services.

One man, who identified himself only as S Pillay, said he had joined the queue on six separate days, only to be told every time the gates closed at 2.30pm and he should “come back tomorrow”.

David Pearce returned to the queue yesterday after two previous attempts this week. He said there were only 60 people ahead of him in the queue when gate keepers claimed the quota of 100 had been reached. He questioned why this limit had to be enforced during Level 1 lockdown.

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Others said they had queued since 4am to wait for the gates to open at 8am. They also complained of there being no functioning toilet facilities.

“It’s getting very bad,” said Sbu Mbatha.

Another 4am starter, from Durban North, who gave his name only as John, said: “It is what it is and it’s going to take a thousand years to fix.”

He said he would normally have gone to the Goble Road office but it was closed. The other alternative was Mariannhill.

Ncalane confirmed the closure of Goble Road where the Department of Public Works was still organising temporary park homes for the site. It closed in June after an employee tested positive for Covid.

Another person from the queue, who identified himself only as Chris, said he managed to get into the licensing office after his fourth day of standing in queues. On Thursday he was served at 12.30pm, having arrived there at 5am.

“I kept taking unpaid leave from work to come here only to be kicked out of the queues.”

Unlike licence renewals, registrations cannot be done at post offices.

Ncalane said the Umbilo facility closed at 2.30pm because staff had to work in sync with the banking services, which involved keeping records and transferring cash securely.

He said that with Goble Road’s workload now coming its way, Umbilo was processing half of the city’s vehicles and was now also open at weekends.

Corruption Watch’s Moepong Talane said it was an unfortunate reality that poor service delivery and corruption were not mutually exclusive, “so it is unsurprising that such dynamics crop up at service points”.

“The opportunity for poor service delivery occurs when basic internal standards lapse or are not complied with.

“No official who cares about making sure that every motorist in the country gets equal opportunity would allow unfair advantage by anyone, at the expense of that law-abiding motorist,” Talane said.

The Independent on Saturday