KWAZULU-Natal motorists will again have to dig deep into their pockets, following a provincial cabinet decision to change all vehicle number plates to “KZN” registrations. After years of fiercely-debated proposals to replace town-based registrations like “ND” and “NP” in line with Gauteng and other provinces, Department of Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane confirmed that the provincial cabinet had approved the department’s plan to require motorists to acquire new, provincial plates. Ncalane said the current, residence-based plates — denoting phrases like “Natal, Durban” — were “colonial”; subject to abuse; difficult for police to trace; and running out of digits. While details of the change-over are yet to be announced, The Witness understands the new plates are likely to be aluminium — not plastic — and include a provincial logo, in the same way that Eastern Cape motorists have an elephant, and Limpopo plates have a baobab image. However, at least one opposition party expressed dismay at the decision. DA transport spokesperson Radley Keys said the department should instead focus on reducing traffic accidents: “They is no need for this change. They are being utterly bizarre because our current system works fine. With this process every vehicle owner will be affected, while those in licensing businesses will be smiling with fat bank balances.” The Western Cape is the only other province to use residence-based registrations — and Siphesihle Dube, spokesperson for its Department of Transport, yesterday revealed that the days of the famed CA registration were numbered too. “Initial indications show that the Western Cape will soon be running out of CA registration plates,” said Dube. “Now we need to convert to a standardised and uniform registration plates system.” Chief executive of the South African Number Plate Association Zurika Louw said the change would improve security and car identification — especially after severe accidents, “The current plastic and perspex plates appear to be the cause for concern. I understand that KZN wants their plates to be aluminium, which cannot be copied or burnt in the case of accident.” Ncalane said, “There are several businesses selling fake plates which proves to be difficult for the department to trace them. Also in terms of safety we need these standardised plates,” he said. Ncalane said the KZN department is now seeking permission from the national Department of Transport to develop an operational plan for the roll-out, and, thereafter, to amend legislation. Saying that registrations should “reflect the change to the democratic dispensation”, he added, “In terms of safety on our roads we need a standardised plates. Because the national department is the custodian of vehicle plates, we wrote a letter requesting an approval and amendment to the road traffic act.” Ncalane could not reveal precise figures of what it would cost motorists to have their plates replaced. However, registration costs currently exceed R500, while basic number plates cost at least R150 per set. The plan has been greeted with mixed feelings by motorists this weekend. Joel Moodley complained there was “nothing wrong” with his existing plates. “My main worry is that I will have to pay for this. I believe the government should issue registrations for free for once,” said Moodley. But Sebastian Atkinson said the change could help unite the people of South Africa’s most populous province. “It might be a good move to unite us as people. Why were we separated at the first place? It’s nice to identify your vehicle from your province when you’re outside it. But the cost implication will be a serious factor here,” said Atkinson. Automobile Association spokesperson Graeme Scala said there were clear safety benefits to the change. “It might help in data collection to have plates that reflect a province,” he said.