How to bribe your way to a licence in Johannesburg

Blatant corruption at Randburg Licensing Department

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Photo of Randburg Licensing Department
The Randburg Licencing Department could be facing internal investigations for corruption after two separate incidents of bribery were discovered by GroundUp. Photo: Benita Enoch

For between R2,500 and R4,300, you can get a learner’s and a driver’s licence from the Randburg Licensing Department – if you are prepared to bribe an official.

I have been twice to the offices and on both occasions I was offered licences in exchange for bribes.

We were alerted by a tip-off from a Johannesburg man whose wife had failed her learner’s test at the offices three times and, at the last booking, was offered a licence in exchange for a bribe of R1,000.

The man said he and his wife had refused the offer, but had noted the name of the official – a certain “Jo”.

His full name is known to GroundUp.

I called Jo enquiring about how to get a learner’s and driver’s licence. Within minutes a bribe of R1,000 was solicited for a learner’s licence. I was told that a driver’s licence would cost R2,000 and the two together could be bought for R2,500.

Jo said that the day before he had charged three men R1,500 each for their learner’s licences but he would do a “favour” for me.

He said he had to pass some of the money on.

While in conversation with me, Jo handed the phone to a client of his called ‘Natalie’. She said that Jo had charged her R300 for a renewal of a licence. She said Jo had stopped her in the offices’ parking lot and offered to help her.

“[I did] everything through Jo. It took me 25 minutes. He’s very efficient. When you get here just say, can I speak to Jo. They all know who Jo is.”

When Natalie handed the phone back to Jo, she could be overheard saying; “Sjoe, you’re a businessman, hey?” She told him she was happy with his service and thanked him.

Jo took back the phone and told me that bookings for learner’s licence examinations were full until the end of August and even into September, but that he could make a plan to include me on a test scheduled for 5 July.

He said six other clients who had paid him for a learner’s licence would be writing on that day. All that was needed was payment, two ID photos and a copy of an ID book.

Staff would scan the documents so that the licence was on the system.

“I’m telling you… you don’t have to even study.”

“[You] don’t even spend two or three hours here. Thirty minutes you going out. They do the thumb print, signature and you give them R68 [and] you are out with the learner’s.”

“Driver’s, it’s very quick. It takes me three days… four days.”

I went to the offices and met Jo inside grounds

He said that he was a well known figure at the Randburg Licensing Department and had been working there for four years. He said he was not afraid of anyone and was willing to talk openly about the deal he thought we were about to make.

I stopped short of paying Jo the money because to do so would have made GroundUp complicit in a crime.

After unsuccessful attempts to confirm over the telephone that Jo is indeed an employee of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), I visited the offices a second time.

This time I stumbled upon a JMPD officer, in uniform, who said he could also assist us to buy a learners and drivers license.

The employee, who said his name was Lucky, and who sits at the reception desk, assured me that because he worked at the JMPD, he was a safer option than Jo, whom he accused of being a thief.

“He’s cheaper, but what if he takes your money and doesn’t do anything? Unlike me, I can’t rob you. I work here. You get what I mean?”

Lucky said a learner’s licence would cost R1,500 and a driver’s licence would set me back R2,800. He said within two weeks I would have both documents. Like Jo, he told me to arrive on the day of the learner’s exam and pretend to write the test, then sign the official documents.

For a driver’s licence, he said, a customer must arrive in his or her own vehicle and an instructor would provide guidance as to how to pass the yard test (basic manoeuvring skills, parking, car inspection). The road test would be rigged to ensure a pass.

I also heard Lucky talking to another customer about his driver’s test. Lucky assured the caller: “You must organise a truck. The guy for the truck charges about R600 and then [take] at least one lesson, because you know how to drive. So it’s just one lesson. And then when you go in, he (the inspector) will know that I’ve already spoken to him. And then he’ll just guide you. ‘Go here and there, do this and this’ until you are finished.”

Lucky was careful to tell his client that his fee did not include the cost of hiring the truck or the driving lesson.

Meanwhile, JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minaar said that any officer who participates in soliciting bribes would have to appear before a disciplinary meeting.

“The JMPD does not tolerate corruption.”

He also referred GroundUp to the head of Internal Affairs, Sam Sethagu, who would further investigate the evidence we collected.

The cost of a learner’s licence is R108 to book and R60 to issue. A driver’s licence Code 10 test costs R240, and R228 for a Code 8. The issuing fees on both licences are R228.

Numerous attempts to phone the Randburg Licencing Department proved unsuccessful. The listed phone numbers appear to be out of order.

This video shows GroundUp’s reporter talking to Jo. It was filmed secretly so it is shaky and Jo is often not in the frame. You can also see a video of our reporter talking with Lucky. Here are recorded telephone conversations with Jo: one and two.

TOPICS:  Corruption Government

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

I think the same thing is happening at Midrand testing station. I was told by someone that if you don't go with a driving school for your license you won't get it. I didn't believe it! My son now went three times for his license. Every time he gets failed for "small" things. Today he was told the car rolled back while doing alley docking! Alley docking is done on a flat surface. Where can the car roll? When my son questioned it he was told he can be shown the video recording. When he said he wants to see the video footage, the inspector had a different story. When he went into the office to lay a complaint he was told that the supervisor isnt in! I would like to know who can I escalate this to.

Dear Editor

I know that the very same thing is happening at The Midrand Licensing Department. I went and wrote my learner licence test last Thursday. I failed. Apparently in order to pass, you must pay R1,500.

Dear Editor

I went for my learner's test in Boksburg. I passed without making any payments, and for my drivers test I went to Randburg. Once again I passed without having to pay for a bribe.

I guess we have different experiences as individuals.

Dear Editor

Not long ago my husband and I were referred to a guy at the Randburg license department. We were told to pay R2000, then we would take a photo and he would organise a drivers licence for my husband. He then took us to the back entrance and said we should wait while he paid the guy that issues licences.

My husband, however, had a gut feeling that something was not right with the situation and told me to wait while he went to the front. Upon reaching the front, he found the same guy trying to make a run with our money towards the taxi rank!

The amount of corruption in South Africa is really overwhelming. Scams around every corner we turn.

Dear Editor

The solution to all of this corruption and squandering and having people who do not know how to drive on our roads is to make driving lessons compulsory in High School (I believe this done in the USA) so that there are more competent drivers on the roads.

Corruption and bribery have been in the Licensing Department since time immemorial. The culprit is caught and then a NEW one turns up. Where there's a way to make easy money, there will ALWAYS be a corrupt government official.

Dear Editor

I met a man who works there for a few years and has a few regular clients for licence renewal. I paid him R4,000 to do roadworthy and change of ownership and a new disk. He was fast but said there was a mark on the car and I had to pay R1,200 to remove it as well. I gave him all my documents and he has since November been out of contact.. It's January and my car is not licensed, not in my name and he has my original car papers! He works there. Is there any way we can find him and get my documents back and rectify this?

Dear Editor

I'm a driving instructor and I love what I do, teaching kids to drive safely on our roads. I can't stand all the bribery and buying of licences. I would love to help any anti corruption initiative to catch these corrupt officials simply because I'm fed up.

For example, I get asked at least 5 times a week if i can sell somebody a licence or give them a number of such a person.

Dear Editor

My son has just been for the 5th time to write his learners at Benoni traffic department, and once again failed. Funny thing is when he walked into the room this morning they started filling up from the back and when my son walked in he was told to go sit in front, once again he failed.

On the first time he wrote and failed, he walked out a guy who came up to him and told him next time bring R1,500 and I will make sure you pass. So what now? Are they going to keep failing my son until he decides to buy it for R1,500? I'm sure if they can make you pass for that amount, they can surely fail you too, just because they can. And every time they tell him he has failed by 1 mark.
I am furious, my poor son is ready to give up.

Dear Editor

There is bribery at the Waltloo testing centre. We are now unable to pass licence tests because of these bribes. My brother failed last year because he didn't want to pay a bribe. He went to Centurion after a month but the same thing happened again. This is frustrating me because I also want to get a licence. How can these people be investigated and delt with? Another thing is that these people who make booking dates are unavailable while under investigation so people get frustrated waiting for testing dates to become available. These people end up paying these bribes.

Dear Editor

I am a new permanent resident who holds a valid driver's license from my country of origin for 18 years. I have been using this license in SA since 2010. In applying for a SA driver's license I went for some lessons and was warned by my two instructors that I would fail if I don't pay a bribe. My colleague, who casually told me she had bought hers, told me the same thing. The problem is well known it seems and there are many actors making hay - the driving schools, testing officers, higher-level officials as well as the general public.

I decided not to pay a bribe. My first challenge was making a booking. Eventually, I managed to get a slot a Langlaagte. At the centre, a helpful person approached me said that without paying a bribe I would fail. Turns out everyone was right. The testing officer was rude and failed me for supposedly rolling back.

JMPD employees have created a system to frustrate people into paying a bribe. I would like to see this problem addressed, but there's obviously no will to do that, what with corruption being quite the money-spinner and with many fingers in the rotten pie.

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