South Africa should look at the introduction of national number plates to help clamp down on corruption and provide assistance in tracking criminals, says Zurika Louw, chief executive of the South African Number Plate Association.
Louw gave input to parliament this week on proposed changes in the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, which will see greater regulation around the manufacturing and embossing of number plates in the country.
While a key aim of these new regulations is to stamp out criminality, Louw said that there was a greater issue with the enforcement of the existing rules and the vast number of number plates currently available in South Africa.
Louw explained that when a vehicle is used in a crime, it usually has a cloned or stolen number plate. However, she said that typically no action is taken against the manufacturers of illegal plates and the legitimate industry needed assistance in this regard.
She pointed to specific issues in Gauteng where number plates are made of plastic, have the wrong lettering or are the wrong size – all of which are against regulations.
She added that between the different sizes and provincial varieties, there were currently almost 400 different variations of number plates, which make policing very difficult.
These include different number plates and graphics for each province, four different sizes of plates, personalised number plates, and government plates.
A national number plate would go a long way to solving this problem, she said. Louw said that recent statements from the Department of Transport indicated that this could be a consideration going forward.
For the time being, Louw said that her association was looking at creating a booklet which would assist metro police officers to help identify fake number plates at roadblocks.
She said that this issue was compounded by the use of plastic number plates that were easy to clone by covering a sheet of perspex with vinyl. They are also easy to make and require no special tools or machinery.
While these fake plates do not have the reflective properties of a legitimate number plate, Louw explained that they still looked convincing enough from a distance. By comparison, Louw said it would be much harder to forge an aluminium number plate