Durban - KwaZulu-Natal motorists say they are being prevented from buying four-digit vehicle licence plates by the department of transport.
In February 2016 the department began preventing people from buying four-digit licence plates for new vehicles, unless they already owned a vehicle with such a number.
They were also prevented from transferring four-digit plates when they inherited a vehicle with such a number.
A disgruntled family were told they were unable to apply to keep the four-digit licence plates from three vehicles which they had inherited from a relative.
They were disappointed as there was historical and sentimental value attached to the plates which they wanted to keep in the family.
Spokesman for the KwaZulu-Natal department of transport Kwanele Ncalane acknowledged The Mercury’s request for an interview on the matter, but failed to answer phone calls or SMSes on Tuesday evening.
When The Mercury phoned the department, it was told by a staff member that the department had “put on hold” selling new four-digit license plates since February, but motorists were allowed to transfer old ones that they owned to new vehicles, but did not say why.
A Durban-based licence plate specialist, who did not want to be named, said he had received a memo on 7 February with “very little info” as to why that motorists were now unable to transfer four-digit plates.
The man whose family had inherited the three vehicles told The Mercury that he had been informed by the KwaZulu-Natal department of transport that it had stopped renewing licence plates with numerical values between one and 9999.
The family’s vehicles in question have licence plates numbered NX 1, NX 7, and NX 57.
The 34-year-old man, who insisted on anonymity, said he had heard “conflicting stories” as to why they were unable to keep the plates.
“They told us that no one is getting the plates. Somebody said they are stockpiling them. Another person said they are transferring the plates to someone else, and others said they were doing nothing with them.”
He said that a national department representative in Pretoria had told the family that only KwaZulu-Natal had this policy in place.
The lawyers who were helping the family with the deceased’s estate since July 2015, had told the family that they were representing a client in court on a similar matter against the KwaZulu-Natal department of transport.
The Durban law firm, Livingston Leandy Incorporated, did not want to comment to The Mercury.
The family have not yet transferred the vehicles, so they still have the licence plates; they said they were not considering legal action but were more concerned about why this was being done.
“The licence plates are more than 70 years old, they were passed down from generation to generation, so it’s an important link to our history,” he said.