Is it safe for South Africans to raise their perennially lowered expectations?

You know when it’s election time; all of a sudden things start getting done; overgrown parks get mowed, potholes get filled, albeit at odd hours and over weekends, raising interesting thoughts about overtime and outsourced tenders, but so it goes.

The most interesting thought is why this doesn’t happen all year round. The amazing thing is that Eskom has even stopped load shedding. But what’s perhaps most incredible is that the eNatis system seems to have had a Lazarus-esque resurrection when it comes to booking a spot to renew driver’s licences.

There was nothing really wrong with the buttock shuffle of the Driver’s Licence Centres, although it was highly COVID 19 unfriendly. The only thing that was a problem was getting to the front to find out the system was down – a sense of horror patented and perfected by the Department of Home Affairs. But that too seems to be changing.

When things work, much historically like the lifts at The Star building, it’s an unbelievable feeling of undeserved triumph. You’ll be close to tears at the sheer relief, pinching yourself to prove it’s real. It’s a quintessential South African story, we start lowering our expectations to a level where we can’t be disappointed.

And so it is with the driver’s licence renewals. There’s a been a move to digitise the process, by logging onto the eNatis system and booking a slot in Gauteng. It’s a lottery. Most times there are no slots even if you are prepared to drive to the further flung reaches of the province just to sit on a bench. 

Some users try to confuse the system by logging in early in the morning or early in the evening, sometimes both, to see if a slot mysteriously appears. One or two have been lucky, the rest peer at their license as the expiry date looms ever closer – despite Transport Minister Fikile Mr FearFokol/ Fixit/Fuckit, Mbalula’s promise that the deadline’s been pushed to March.

This week though, surprise, surprise, something happened. It’s called “Request A Slot”. It’s an app on Android or you can email or The provincial government phones you back. It’s true, I almost dropped the phone in surprise, especially since I’d doubled my odds and been redirected minutes earlier by the RTMC to register on a site that worked.

The catch, there’s always one, is the promise to send you a slot in 30 days – that will be almost 20 days past the local government elections in my case. Will it happen? You’ll have to wait for the next instalment, as will I, but it raises the age-old question, why couldn’t it always be like this?

In Johannesburg and Pretoria, the kids writing matric are always told that if they haven’t started revising by the time the jacarandas blossom, they’ve left it too late. With a week to go before the polls, it’s something the parties might be asking themselves. Or will the blossoms eventually drop in time and just further block up the clogged broken storm drains on either side of the potholed roads, underneath the blown street lights?

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 23 October 2021.