Driver's licence applicants will not be affected by strike – Blade Nzimande

Contract employees are demanding permanent employment from dept

Driver's licence applicants will not be affected by strike at card production facility - Nzimande

8 August 2018

Driver's licence applications will not be affected by the current impasse between the Department of Transport and Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA) employees, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande assured South Africans this week.

The DLCA employees, who have refused to renew their contracts, are demanding permanent employment from the department.

They told News24 that there was a backlog of more than 140 000 driver's licence cards, and that it was growing every day.

The employees said they had staged a sit-down outside the DLCA offices in Pretoria for the past three weeks.

Nzimande said it was also critical to note that the DLCA was currently undergoing routine maintenance of its machinery and systems.

"In the events of unforeseen delays, the DLCA has put in place contingency plans to recover on their turnaround time and deliver the cards as per prevailing standards."

The DLCA was established in 1997, in terms of the Public Finance Management Act of 1995, under the transport department to produce and deliver driving licence cards, according to the DLCA's strategic plan 2017/18-2019/20.

The services were originally outsourced to Prodiba (PTY) LTD until May 5, 2015, when the DLCA took over the card production facility.

DLCA employee Hendrick Rapholo told News24 on Tuesday that the production plant had come to a complete standstill.

"It's been three weeks now and there has been no driving licence card production for South Africa.

"The reason is the entire production staff has been told to leave, as they refused to sign unfair contracts," he said.

He said that when the transport department had taken over Prodiba in 2015, the employees of Prodiba who had worked for the company since 1998 were transferred to the department's DLCA.

"They were promised permanent posts, but three years down the line they are still working on contract," said Rapholo.

Rapholo accused company CEO Collins Letsoalo of "ruling with an iron fist".

"The staff has been feeling threatened, as Mr Letsoalo rules with an iron fist and refused to negotiate a decent contract. They were threatened that interns will be taking their jobs."

Another employee who asked to remain anonymous claimed that applicants would not be getting their licences any time soon.

The employee alleged that Letsoalo, a former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) acting CEO, had fired the entire production team responsible for the manufacturing of the driving licence cards.

"These people were fired because they did not agree with his terms and conditions of a contract stating the parties agree to exclude Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act, which they did not," said the employee.

Rapholo said the staff had refused because they knew there was compensation owed to them after the takeover by the transport department in 2015.

He said they had tried negotiating with management, but were allegedly asked to sign the contract or leave.

Asked for comment, Letsoalo laughed and said: "I am not going to comment on that. The department has issued a statement."

Meanwhile, Rapholo said the entire driving licence production team had been forced to hand in their clock cards and that they had been escorted out of the production plant by security.

He said the first contract the production team had received from the department in May 2015 had a package which clearly stated that no benefits were to be given.

"The staff were given continuous contracts over the past three years and the last contract stated that the very same package is inclusive of government benefits (37% of their salary). The staff was asked to deny Act 197 in their new contracts and not consult with anyone outside the DLCA," he said.

However, Nzimande said he had instructed the acting director general of the department to meet with all the stakeholders involved, including DLCA management and employees.