Durban - Concerns have been expressed about a possible waste of time and resources – while confusion reigns – if proposals to change number plates across the country are adopted.
KwaZulu-Natal has developed a plan that the executive council approved in January - but specifications for new number plates are among suggested amendments to the National Road Traffic Act that have been released for public comment.
The document, received by the Department of Transport last week, was presented to the KZN legislature’s portfolio committee during a discussion of the reviewing of the province’s number plate system.
The issue is to be debated at a sitting of the legislature next week.
DA member Radley Keys questioned the province’s plan when changes were being planned nationally.
He suggested the province put its plan on hold until there was more information about the national proposal. “I am concerned that all the work done here will be overridden by national… the work would be put in the bin.”
COST TO MOTORISTS
Keys was also concerned about the cost to motorists and the government.
The IFP’s Steven Moodley agreed, saying: “New number plates would put an unnecessary financial burden on motorists who are burdened by rising fuel costs and tolls.”
Committee chairman Mxolisi Kaunda said there was support in principle for new number plates.
The plan should, however, be aligned with national regulations so it did not amount to “fruitless expenditure”.
Transport MEC Willies Mchunu said the number plate system was rooted in apartheid and sustained irrelevant magisterial jurisdictions and boundaries.
It had been established with a licence mark and number to denote the then-registration authority and had been issued according to magisterial district. For example, NP denoted Natal Pietermaritzburg, and NKR Natal Kliprivier.
The plates needed to be consistent with the province’s identity, along the lines of Gauteng and Limpopo, for instance, Mchunu said.
He said the numbering plan was nearing its limit as it provided for numbers up to 999 999 and had reached 800 000.
Also, it was difficult to control manufacturers of plates and prevent the use of illegal plates.
“The new plates will seek to tighten security and ensure that we are able to curb crime committed through the use of vehicles.”
Mchunu said the financial implications had not been determined, but consideraton was being given to allowing five years for people to change their plates.
KZN transport spokesman Nathi Sukazi said after the meeting he did not think there was conflict between what the national government and the province were trying to do.
“I can’t imagine the spirit of the process to create a national plate will be one that discourages a provincial identity.”
John Motsatsing, the director of road transport regulation in the national department, said that the process was in the consultative stages. If agreed on, it would go to Parliament. It would take nine to 12 months for legislation to be completed and the process would be implemented thereafter.
The idea was to streamline the process as not all plates followed the same standards.
“It would take us to the basics of what number plates should be.”
The new plates would be easily identifiable when vehicles went into other Southern Africa Development Community countries.
Under the proposed system, number plates could be traced to the manufacturer. “From a law enforcement point of view, it would be easier to identify who embossed the plates.”
Motsatsing said the new system would not cost the government anything and vehicle owners would be given “a couple of years” to change to the new plates.