By Nqobile Tshili and Patrick Chitumba
Aspiring drivers yesterday thronged the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) depots across the country to either sit for provisional drivers licence tests or undergo road tests as depots countrywide resumed operations.
VID depots closed when Government imposed the national lockdown in March as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Ministry said all the depots are adhering to Covid-19 prevention measures such as hand sanitisation and observing social distancing.
Unregistered driving schools around the country are racing against time to legalise their operations so that they are allowed to operate following the opening of the VID depots for tests and other services.
Since last week, the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe and the VID officers have been inspecting registered driving schools to see if they meet the set standards to operate.
The VID came up with Covid-19 operating guidelines and standard operating procedures which are in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and have since been approved by the National Taskforce on Covid-19 and Cabinet.
The offices or rooms where driving schools teach students should be well ventilated and they must observe social distancing, should have thermometers for temperature checks and sanitisers or hand washing facilities.
The instructors from the driving schools will only get permits to operate after undergoing Covid-19 tests.
A Provisional Driver’s Licence fee is pegged at $100 and the same amount is paid for a road test for those seeking a Class Four driver’s licence while those that want a Class Two driver’s licence have to part with $125.
In June Government extended by six months the validity of provisional driving licenses and defensive driving certificates which expired from March 30.
The extension was made through Statutory Instrument 144 of 2020.
“The principal order is amended by the insertion after section 16 of the following section — deferment of expiry of certain documents issued under Cap. 12:11 17. If the period of validity of a learner’s licence expires after 30th March 2020, its validity shall be automatically extended from the date of expiry to a date ending 180 days thereafter, or to the date when the national lockdown ends, whichever is the earlier date.
“If the period of validity stated on a defensive driving certificate expires after the 30th March 2020, its validity shall be automatically extended from the date of expiry to a date ending 180 days thereafter, or to the date when the national lockdown ends, whichever is the earlier date,” reads the SI.
It further stated: “If the date on which a public service vehicle driver must be re-tested falls due at any time between the 30th March 2020, and the date when national lockdown ends, the driver shall be re-tested on a date or dates to be notified by the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development by general notice in the Gazette, and until such date or dates the public service vehicle drivers concerned are deemed to have been duly and successfully re-tested.”
In Bulawayo, people were booking tests and getting tested on the spot.
Aspiring drivers stampeded to get tested as there is a general belief that the fees maybe increased soon.
Others said they needed to pass road tests because police had been tough on unlicensed drivers.
The Chronicle yesterday spoke to elated aspiring drivers as they spoke about their desire to possess driver’s licences.
Mrs Julia Mtevare said her husband bought a car for her in December but she has not been able to drive it.
“I have been waiting for the VID to open so that I can acquire a driver’s licence. I have a car but because I didn’t have a licence I could not drive it. This is my opportunity to acquire a licence which could ease my mobility challenges,” said Mrs Mtevare.
Another aspiring driver, Mr Polite Mabhena said he wanted to be among the early birds to access a licence after Government reopened the VID.
He said the disappointment came when he discovered that there were scores of people who had visited the driver’s licensing authority at around 9AM.
“To make matters worse, there are only a few computers meaning only few people are getting tested at a time. While we applaud the electronic testing system as it reduces the human error on the examiners, there is a need to increase the number of computers that are used to conduct tests. Right now, a lot of people could have been served but the limited computers are a hindrance,” he said.
Zimbabwe Driving School Owners Association (ZDSOA) vice president Mr Edwin Ndlovu, who runs Gracious Driving School said they also started sending students for road tests yesterday.
He said an aspiring driver has to attend at least 30 lessons before going for a road test.
“We are really happy that VID has reopened. This is what we have been lobbying for. It didn’t make sense for some of them to conduct lessons without going for the road tests. At the moment, most driving schools charge $300 per lesson for those seeking a Class Four driver’s licence while those seeking a Class Two licence are charged $600 per lesson. Our members accept all forms of payments including EcoCash,” he said.
The national spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Driving Schools Association Mr Noah Marima commended the
Government for allowing them to reopen for provisional lessons and road tests.
“We are happy that we have been allowed to start driving lessons. We have been issued with operating standards guidelines which we have to adhere to. We have been told that Cabinet approved our reopening on condition that we meet or conform to the operating guidelines,” he said.
Mr Marima said only registered driving schools have been allowed to resume driving lessons.
He said some of their members are still running around so as to meet the demands.
Mr Marima said for a driving school to get a certificate to operate from the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, it must meet the Covid-19 prevention guidelines.
“The instructors must be tested for Covid-19 and TSCZ inspects the lecture rooms to ensure they allow for social distancing and other requirements” he said.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development Engineer Amos Marawa said VID will be operating under the prescribed modus operandi during the Covid-19-induced lockdown period. The Chronicle