By VENERANDA LANGA
PARLIAMENT yesterday ordered the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR) to formally inform motorists that new number plates were not available and allow them to continue using temporary plates until government has disbursed more money for their manufacture.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport, chaired by Shamva North MP Oscar Gorerino (Zanu PF) made the order during a tour of the CVR headquarters in Harare, and also Southern Region Trading Company (Univern) which was contracted to manufacture the number plates.
MPs were told by CVR registrar George Makoni that due to lack of foreign currency in the country, there was a huge backlog of plus or minus 57 000 vehicles that needed number plates. “From 2005 to 2017, we did not have a problem with manufacturing number plates, but the issue of concern is that the raw materials are procured from outside the country and we require more than US$1 million to manufacture them,” Makoni said.
“Unfortunately, that money was not made available due to the foreign currency shortages and when we made a request, we got US$200 000 only in 2017, another US$200 000 in 2018 and another US$500 000 was made available in December last year,” he said.
Makoni said the US$500 000 released last year can only facilitate the manufacture of 68 000 number plates. A vehicle needs two number plates, which also means that the 68 000 number plates can only cater for 34 000 vehicles.
“So from the 34 000 vehicles without number plates, there was an additional 27 000 more vehicles in 2020 that needed number plates which means we have a backlog of around 61 000 vehicles which need number plates,” he said.
Makoni said the 68 000 vehicles procured from the US$500 000 were supposed to arrive in March, but they did not due to COVID-19 problems, whereby the priority was to transport medical equipment and personal protective equipment. He said the current stock of raw materials to manufacture number plates will be finished by next month.
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“Unfortunately, the police started arresting everyone with temporary number plates and we were not ready for this kind of upsurge because we only have 15% of our workforce at the station due to COVID-19 and now there is a huge influx of people coming because their vehicles have been impounded. Zimra was also serving only 20 people per day due to COVID-19,” he said.
But MPs were not impressed and they ordered that CVR must liaise with the parent ministry and the Home Affairs ministry to order police to stop impounding vehicles with temporary number plates. MPs were also concerned that the long queues at CVR would promote corruption where people would be asked to bribe staff to have their number plates released ahead of others. MPs then asked Makoni to explain the rationale of charging US$80 for number plates when Zimbabweans earned Zimdollars.
Makoni said it was a policy issue which was announced by the Finance ministry. He said change of ownership of vehicles was still charged in Zimdollars, adding that there was no need to get new number plates for change of ownership.
“The US$80 is not even our money; it goes to the Finance ministry. We have collected US$1,2 million as of now for number plates. A single plate is US$11,45 at cost,” he said.
Univern general manager Dominic Kasere said Zimbabwe’s number plates used 99,9% pure aluminium and reflective fitting which was not available in the country and have the highest number of security features (more than five), making it very difficult for thieves to produce counterfeit number plates. Kasere said the country’s number plates were far much better than South African ones in terms of security as evidenced by the fewer vehicle thefts compared to South Africa. He said only two companies in the world manufacture reflective sheeting.