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New number plates for SA: 5 things you need to know

2017-06-01 10:06

Image: iStock

Cape Town - With talk of new number plate laws in South Africa set to come into effect later in 2017 (no official roll-out date has been set), it’s best to know how this will affect motorists. 

The new plates and associated laws are part of the Department of Transport’s strategy to standardise number plates in SA. It will form part of the National Road Traffic Act as well as the South African National Standard for number plates.

The Department of Transport said: "The security features of the number plates are part of the broad road safety strategy, which will ensure that we have the right vehicles on our roads, which to a larger extent contribute to the fatalities and carnage on our roads.”

Law For All's Managing director, advocate Jackie Nagtegaal, answers questions regarding new number plates for SA:

1. When will the new plates come into effect?

Nagtegaal: "Originally devised in January 2015, the draft regulation amendments have been going back and forth due to public debate, it’s believed that South African motorists will have to comply with these rules in 2017."

2. What is the proposed design for the number plates?

According to the proposed changes, a legal South African number plate must feature the following:

  • A certified stamp of approval from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)
  • South African National Flag on top left corner
  • The name of the province under the South African flag
  • Licence number and licence mark of the province
  • Four-dimensional barcode with the QR code that contains the registration number of the manufacturer of blank number plates.
  • The name of the province in which the vehicle is registered
  • The sequence number on the bottom left of the number plate.

All info will be embossed on an aluminium plate and coated with a retro-reflective surface.

Will all number plates have the same design?

Nagtegaal: "For the most part, yes, but different colours for the letters and figures will be used to differentiate between types of vehicles: 

Public transport vehicles - Black
Government vehicles - Red
Diplomatic vehicles - Green
Personal vehicles - Blue

An example of public plates

PICS: SA drivers to sport new licence plates

3. What about customised number plates?

According to Adv. Nagtegaal, personalised number plates will still be allowed but will have to conform to the regulations, and the lettering and figures will have to be in blue.  What’s more, personalised number plates may not contain any vulgar or offensive language or symbols (only numbers and letters will be allowed).

"Citizens will also be allowed to report any number plates they find offensive to their local metro police," said Nagtegaal. 

4. Will the new number plates be a once-off purchase for motorists?

Nagtegaal: "No. Much like renewing your licence disc every year and your driver’s licence every five years, you will also have to renew your number plate every five years.   

5. What are your thoughts regarding the changes?

Nagtegaal: "There are some positives and negatives that have been highlighted since the changes were first mentioned. Many have praised the fact that a Member of Executive Council won’t have a say in what images will be featured on the plates because previously their influence resulted in the plates being difficult to read.  

"The aluminium plates will last longer and won’t burn as easily in the unfortunate event of an accident.  However, because there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the new laws, we don’t know if there will be a fee for the renewal. Many South Africans are skeptical as there hasn’t been much transparency regarding payment, renewal fees and fines.

"Whether or not the new number plate regulations will come into effect in 2017 is still a mystery, and leaving motorists in the dark is certainly not the way to go about this process, but, at this point, it’s better to have some idea of what will be expected when (if) the laws are implemented."


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