This article first appeared on Recharged.
Anyone who’s dealt with any government agency breaks out in cold sweats at the thought of doing anything relating to official documents.
From changing your surname on your ID to applying for a new passport, we often spend sleepless nights trying to figure out if there’s a way around all of it. And while most banks have made identity document and passport processes relatively pain-free, one major pain point for South Africans is our driver’s licence cards.
Between a broken-down printer – yes, the one and only printer – and the five-year expiration, it’s a process no one looks forward to. Least of all, someone with irrational anxiety. That’s me. I’m the someone with irrational anxiety.
So, when I heard all the good things about the Waterfall RTMC, I decided it was worth the 20 km drive on a Friday morning. But first, you need to make a booking.
Driver’s Licence: How to make a booking online
STEP 1: Go to online.natis.gov.za and click BOOK NOW to renew your “Driving Licence Card”.
STEP 2: Select Gauteng from the drop-down.
STEP 3: Verify your identity (ID number, initials, surname).
STEP 4: Confirm your contact details (cellphone number and email address).
STEP 5: Select your preferred testing centre (RTMC DLTC Waterfall Park), date, and time. They don’t open bookings for months ahead of time.
STEP 6: Download your booking confirmation. This includes a reference number, application fee (R228 without a temporary licence, which costs extra), and the testing centre’s address.
Seems simple enough. But that’s usually the easy part. For reasons entirely unknown to me, I decided to book the first slot of the day – 07:00.
In the days running up to my appointment, I started to stress because my mom didn’t raise anything but a worrier. The booking confirmation indicates you need to bring your ID and a copy thereof, and the only mention of photos is for two identical ID photos if you need a temporary licence.
Reminders of entrepreneurs in dusty caravans on bricks offering to take your pictures at extortionate fees had me breaking out in a sweat. Several people on social media told me it’s OK; everything is taken care of.
To further minimise my interaction with equipment exposed to hundreds of people daily, I got an eye report from my optometrist, but this is not essential.
The actual experience
Wearing my big girl pants, I set off toward Midrand. From the very first interaction, everyone is helpful. The security guards showed me where to park, and I completed a sign-in sheet. I was very early. They recommend you show up 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment.
The main reason for that is probably to fill out the correct form. The form on the website turned out to be outdated, so we all had to redo our forms. Don’t forget to take a pen with black ink with you!
Once the receptionist confirmed we all had copies of our ID, she allocated us to different workstations. Everyone is so friendly, even at 07:00 on a Friday morning.
Your information from the form is captured, your thumbprints are captured digitally, like at the bank, and you scribble your signature (slowly) onto a digital pad. Then you move your chair closer to a white backdrop, and your pic gets snapped.
Each desk also has an eye test machine, and they look quite clean and well-maintained, so there’s that.
A quick tap to pay the R228 – they don’t accept cash – and I was on my way, leaving the centre at 07:20. I felt a bit foolish for worrying so much about it.
Hopefully, the pick-up will be as hassle-free. Again, feedback from others indicates that is the case. So, if you’re in Gauteng and the drive isn’t too hectic, definitely book your slot at the Waterfall testing centre.
The collection experience
Just a little over four weeks after my application, I received a text message that my licence was ready for collection. I recommend you go early for this – don’t forget to take your receipt along. You simply hand it in at the counter, take a seat, and wait for your name to be called. Then you sign the register and the receipt block on the original application form.
I went around 10:00 on a Monday morning, and there was a queue out the door in addition to the seating.
Overall, the entire experience was hassle-free and gets a two thumbs-up from me, the person with anxiety.