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Zimbabwe’s VID should follow South Africa’s lead and start issuing smart plastic licences

During this week I visited the VID premises in Eastlea. It had been years since I did so and back then there was not much to like about the place and the experience. I was curious to see if anything had changed. I am glad to say while the place still looks ancient, like you just teleported back to the mid-90s, a number of notable things have changed for the better. More however can still be done.

Most notable is the effect the computerised provisional licence exams is having. It has reduced the level of corruption that was pervasive to very low levels. Importantly it has made things a little more efficient. You have a batch of about 15-20 or so students writing their provisional exam every 15 minutes or so.

Those who pass are immediately issued with a provisional licence based on results that have an audit trail. There was a snaking rapid moving line when I arrived and by lunchtime, there was barely anyone left. You can go to the VID to write your exam at 10:00 AM and be done within an hour. That was unthinkable in the past.

We need smart plastic licences

Clearly, computerisation and automation are the answers to the problems that used to and are still plaguing the VID. One concerning area is the issuance of licence disks. Last time I heard there was a massive backlog as the country was making a mere 48 disks daily. Naturally, staff have started capitalising on the overwhelming demand by demanding bribes so they can “facilitate” the speedy release of these discs.

This can be easily solved by issuing plastic polymer licences like what South Africa and other countries are doing. Instead of giving people temporary paper licences, each passing candidate should be given a plastic ID that is printed instantly. We have been doing this with IDs for many years now what’s stopping the VID from moving to the same system?

The advantage of plastic polymer licences is that they are cheap and easy to make. We can certainly make more than the paltry 48 metal licences being made. Then is also the added benefit that we can actually make these licences smart. This can be done by including a chip and barcode. This comes with advantages such as:

  • Authenticity of a licence could be easily verified by scanning the ID and checking the centralised VID database. The police and other authorities could be given access to this database. This way fake licences can be easily weeded out
  • You can introduce a points based system to reward good drivers and punish bad ones. For example it will be easier to suspend licences temporarily for certain offences. Clearly the fine based system we have is not a deterrent.
  • Shorter turnaround time. Instead of people waiting for years to get their licences like we have you get your final licence upon passing.
  • You can introduce licence renewal systems for say Public Service Vehicles. Currently due to the prohibitive cost and time it takes to produce a licence it’s hard to have such a system in place.
  • New design means new security features too. Which means hard to forge. The current licence has very little security. A determined forger will not have any issues creating a fake one.
  • It’s closer to international standards than what we currently have. Those licences look very ancient.

The VID will probably do this at some point but the switchover is long overdue.


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6 thoughts on “Zimbabwe’s VID should follow South Africa’s lead and start issuing smart plastic licences

  1. The switch over is long overdue indeed. What saddens me is that the authorities does not even attempt to extend expiry date for the certificate of competency which expire after 1 year. Given the challenges brought by Covid they should at least announce, say those awaiting license disc for this given period can drive with the “expired” certificate of competency

  2. I have been waiting a long time for replacement of my lost DL. This plastic licences would go a long way in this regard.

  3. Anything that fights corruption will be fought off in its tracks. We have Zim programmers doing wonders for other nations because they are keen to fight corruption. Technology is disruptive and viewed as a pebble in their shoes of corruption. Some will become redundant if we start integrating our local systems because they are employed on mercy grounds instead of merit. ‘Kana zvisingadyise hatizvidi’ is their mantra.

  4. You must realise that some bought or fake licences are the real thing, acquired through shady means. Changing to plastic or smart discs won’t change that. So long as the corrupt elements are still there, at the CVR or VID, this will continue.

    Metal discs also get endorsed, they mark it on the back. With digitisation these endorsements can easily “disappear”. As well, checking the authenticity of a licence won’t work if the police don’t have the necessary equipment, of which they probably won’t at time soon. It is still feasible and inexpensive to verify the authenticity of metal discs using technology, it is just that they don’t want to do it.

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