After years of familiarity, vehicle number plates in KwaZulu-Natal are destined for the scrap heap as the province plans to introduce major changes.
These could also do away with the prefixes indicating the town or suburb, such as ND or NPN, as well as bringing in a logo to market the province.
KwaZulu-Natal department of transport spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said the department was drawing up a proposal to put to the provincial cabinet that would put KZN on par with the other provinces.
Details of what the plates would look like and how much it would cost to change them have not been revealed.
The chief executive of the South African Number Plate Association, Zurika Louw, explained that the current plastic and perspex plates being used in most provinces presented a security issue.
“You can buy perspex backing and place black or blue vinyl cut out letters on to it and it looks legit, it just doesn’t have the reflective cover.”
Louw said aluminium licence plates were much more difficult to duplicate.
The plates are made by South African Bureau of Standards-certified manufacturers, and sold to the embossers who place the digits on the plate.
“We must get rid of plastic plates, they aren’t secure. Gauteng implemented aluminium plates in November 2010 and the Government Gazette said all new plates must be aluminium. Plastic is supposed to be phased out by 1 November 2013.”
Louw said plastic plates were also being fitted to cars with double sided tape or even Velcro whereas the new law in Gauteng stipulated they must be permanently fixed.
“You can’t drill holes in perspex.”
According to Louw, the current SABS sticker is merely stuck on and easily removed and the SABS was considering a barcoded indestructible sticker that could be scanned by traffic officers.
“If there is a changeover of plates, there will be a phasing out period, usually between three to five years, starting with certain numbers.”
Recently, transport MEC Willies Mchunu said KwaZulu-Natal number plates were out of date, “if not meaningless”, considering the advances already made by other provinces. He said the aim was to eradicate illegal number plates which made it difficult to trace the owner of the vehicle in the event of an emergency or criminal offence.
He said the current plates were also not easily captured on speed cameras.
Ncalane said KwaZulu-Natal was the only province that did not have its own unique, branded style of number plate. The proposal could include the provision of the province’s logo on new plates.
The full costs of any changes made have yet to be calculated.
“We are still putting together cost assessments. This proposal is a work in progress,” Ncalane said. “We will make a public announcement once the proposal has been approved.”
The public would then be asked for suggestions, he said.
Durban businessman, Zubher Osman, whose company makes number plates, welcomed the proposed changes.
“I feel it is a great way to market the province. The logo should encapsulate the beauty of our province,” he said.
According to Osman the price of number plates varied between R90 and R160 a set.
The three types of number plate that he offered were acrylic, made from perspex.
Adrian Moolman of One Stop Number Plates speculated that the department might go for metal number plates, which he said were more costly, less durable, took longer to make, required a machine to produce and had absolutely no extra benefit compared with the current acrylic plates.
“The intelligent chip that was supposed to be inserted into metal plates many years ago never materialised, so there is no reason to push on with a failed system,” he said.
Moolman said the Transport Department’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition system, which enabled a traffic officer to pick up details of the vehicle and owner, had taken over from the “chip” system. He said that motorists had already bought, at high cost, far too many specialised, short suburb-related plates.
“There is a lot of politics behind this,” Moolman said.
Other provinces use logos.
Mpumalanga has a stylised rising sun; the Eastern Cape has an elephant and an aloe; Limpopo has a baobab tree and provincial crest; the Northern Cape has a gemsbok and sand dune; the Free State has a cheetah; North West has a maize cob, an elephant, a sunflower and a mine shaft. Gauteng has a crest. - Daily News