The new registration plates proposed for Gauteng next year will make vehicles illegal and unroadworthy, according to the Democratic Alliance.

In a statement on Tuesday, the party’s spokesperson on transport, James Swart, said the placement of a passive tag on the number plate for highway tolling would “violate protocol laid down by the SA Bureau of Standards which all licence plates have to comply with”.

“If licence plates do not comply with SABS protocols, the vehicles they are fitted to are unroadworthy in terms of the national Road Traffic Act,” Swart said.

But the Gauteng department of public transport, roads and works, through its spokesperson Alfred Nhlapo, denied Swart’s assertion, saying it was untrue.

“The proposed new intelligent number plate system does not include a tolling tag. The issue of tolling is a national competency over which the department does not have leverage,” Nhlapo said.

The department was continuously consulting with the SABS to ensure compliance to specifications, he said, but stressed that work on the new number plate system had yet to be finalised.

“The department will not undermine the laws of the country for purposes of expediency,” he said.

Gauteng Transport MEC Ignatius Jacobs last year announced the department’s plan to phase in the new number plates, primarily as a crime-fighting initiative but also because the current number system is almost exhausted.

The new number plates will feature a barcode that would enable law enforcement to timeously access computerised information on the owner of the vehicle; an embedded unique security device and the date of issue; the manufacturer’s name; and the plate’s expiry date.

Swart also questioned the department’s consultation process, saying very few industry role-players – including number plate manufacturers and distributors – had been consulted.

“We are concerned about the obscene haste with which the policy has been passed through without sufficient consultation and participation from both the industry and the public at large,” he said.

Nhlapo, however, said a broad consultative process had begun in June last year, and that the department was “satisfied that the ongoing consultations are in line with the constitutional requirements”.

A representative from the certification department at the SABS could not be reached for comment.