New Gauteng licence plate warning

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has warned the Gauteng government not to make its planned new vehicle number plates more expensive or difficult to register, or it could risk losing lots of revenue from fleet operators.

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi first announced the plan to introduce new “tamper-proof” vehicle licence plates in South Africa’s economic hub in 2022. The original launch date was supposed to be 1 April 2024.

In an interview with eNCA in early February 2024, Lesufi explained that all Gauteng motorists would need to re-register and get a new registration number.

The new plates, which will feature a QR code as an additional security measure, cannot be copied and will be “reliable.”

However, around a week after this interview, Lesufi said that the plates would only be rolled out to government cars in an initial piloting period from April 2024. The plan is to expand the plates to residents later in the year.

A provincial government gazette published on 17 February 2023 proposed draft regulations to govern how the new number plate regime will function. It included:

  • The registration of suppliers of number plates and fees for applications;
  • The introduction of new security features to improve the credibility of number plates and to enable licence plate tracking within the value chain from manufacturer to end user;
  • The enhancement of existing security features and alignment to national and African standards.

Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage told MyBroadband the mere fact that the province’s plan had already missed its initial April 2024 launch date was indicative of a system that was flawed.

“Why launch only with government vehicles when the system is supposed to be ready for all cars?” Duvenage asked.

Duvenage said key questions remain to be answered – how much more the new plates will cost and how restrictive or difficult it would be to purchase and install them.

“It would appear that the new vehicle license plate scheme is set to force new controls that will come at a price,” Duvenage said.

“This may backfire on the province, as it could cause big fleet operations to license their vehicles at offices registered in other provinces of the country.”

The one cost item that all motorists will have to pay is the vehicle registration fee, which is currently R204 in Gauteng.

With over 4.6 million motorists in the province, the provincial government will pocket over R938 million before any other fee changes.

While South Africa’s road laws dictate that motorists must register their vehicles in the same province where they reside, this rule appears to be rarely enforced.

As it stands, Natis only prevents registering cars with number plates from more than one province under the same person’s name.

Panyaza Lesufi, Gauteng Premier

Added security without more costs would be great — but won’t really help

Duvenage said if the new number plate system does not come at a higher cost and improves security, it would be a welcome development.

“If it is more costly and does not necessarily improve security and policing, then it will be a waste of time,” he added.

Outa’s executive director for accountability, Stefanie Fick, still questioned whether the new number plates could truly help combat and prevent crime without changes in enforcement.

“No matter the technology applied, if you are not prioritising law enforcement and prevention, criminals will still get away with crime,” Fick said.

“Catching criminals and holding them accountable should be a priority, along with new technology. Having new tech is useless if you can’t enforce the law.”

The Gauteng government has said one of the key problems the new plates will solve is fake or cloned number plates.

However, it already has one powerful tool at its disposal that enables the detection of cloned number plates — access to Vumacam’s vast network of more than 6,000 number plate recognition cameras in Gauteng and numerous other cameras from partner security companies across the country.

In addition, the province has punted using disconnected e-toll gantries for crime combatting efforts.

The cameras on these gantries also have number plate recognition, which should also help to crack down on fake or cloned plates.

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New Gauteng licence plate warning