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Zimbabwe Unveils New Plastic Driver’s Licence Conforming to SADC Standards

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Zimbabwe has introduced a new standard plastic driver’s licence card, replacing the old metal licences. The new driver’s licence conforms to international standards set by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the East African Community.

The introduction of the new plastic licence, also known as plastic polymer licences, is also expected to help clear a backlog of approximately 600,000 applicants who have been awaiting their driving licenses since 2019.

Under the new system, drivers can expect to receive their licences within seven to ten days after passing their tests, upon payment of a fee of US$5 (R92 at the current rate at the time of publishing) or its equivalent at the official exchange rate.

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Currently, individuals who pass the driving tests in Zimbabwe receive a temporary paper licence, followed by the issuance of a metal license several months later. The introduction of plastic licences brings several advantages, including enhanced security features that make forgery difficult. Additionally, the licenses are scannable, enabling immediate verification of authenticity and the identification of any legal issues.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona launched the new licences, along with the Multilingual Electronic Learner License Testing System and the Digital Route Permit System. These initiatives align with the Zimbabwe transport ministry’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, which aims to upgrade and modernize the transport sector.

new zimbabwe licence
New Zimbabwe driver’s licence card. Photo: Zim Transport Ministry

Transport Minister Mhona emphasized that the new SADC-compliant drivers’ licence system was developed as part of the Zimbabwe Integrated Transport Management Information System (ZIMTIS) Project, a public-private partnership between the government and 1010 Technologies (Pvt) Ltd. The integration of various transport management components into ZIMTIS will promote efficient infrastructure use and information sharing among relevant government departments and agencies.

The implementation of the new system is expected to improve efficiency, eliminate corruption in the issuance of licences, and enhance the government’s capacity to develop an electronic database of licenced drivers linked to all relevant stakeholders.

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Minister Mhona highlighted that Zimbabwean drivers are in high demand within the SADC region and beyond. The new licences comply with the standard specifications of the Tripartite Transport and Transit Facilitation Programme, aiming to harmonize driver training, testing, and certification within the region.

zim licence categories
The 13 categories of the new license will allow for various vehicle sizes and prevent the issue of drivers being authorized to operate vehicles they are not proficient in handling. Photo: Zim Transport Ministry

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zimbabwe licence new classes
Zimbabwe new licence classes to codes. Photo: Zim Transport Ministry

With the introduction of the new driver’s licence categories, Zimbabwe aims to conform to the requirements of the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic of 1968 and the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission. The 13 categories of the new licence will allow for various vehicle sizes and prevent the issue of drivers being authorized to operate vehicles they are not proficient in handling.

Professional Driver’s Permit (PDP)

As with other SADC countries, the new driver’s licence will consolidate the professional driver’s permit and the defensive driver’s certificate onto a single card. Professional drivers will undergo progressive certification, and all licences, including those outside the professional drivers’ category, will require periodic updates of biometric records and eye tests to assess vision and focus on objects. Zimbabwe is the only country in the region whose professional drivers undergo defensive driving tests before getting their PDP.

The implementation of the new driver’s licence system is expected to expedite the clearance of the backlog, alleviate the high demand for licences, and make them more easily accessible. The service fee for applicants on the backlog will be US$5, payable at the official rate, and an online booking platform is available for scheduling biometric data capturing appointments.

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Minister Mhona emphasized the importance of removing the human element from assessing the competence of prospective drivers, to prevent unqualified individuals from obtaining licences fraudulently. The new driver’s licence system employs the latest digital technologies, and biometric authentication, and incorporates 31 advanced security features into the licence card. The integration of the new card printing facility with the Vehicle Inspectorate Department’s Electronic Learners’ Licence Testing (ELLT) System has been successfully completed.

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