Vehicle registration plates of South Africa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

South African number plates are unique in each of the provinces.[1] Each province has their own number plate design, colour scheme and alphanumeric scheme. e.g. AB 12 CD GP or CA 123-456


From 1 February 2000, a process started to replace all number plates in South Africa to an aluminium number plate with an RFID tag containing a unique identification code, including the ability to identify the number plate in a foreign nation. This is termed an Intelligent Number Plate system. The system has been implemented for additional and circumstantial use. The numbering structure on plates will also then change. Concerning the foreign identification system within South Africa, foreigners are granted the permission to verify their number plate to the South African number plate system.

The Department of Transport in South Africa has set aside R25 million for the project during the 2015/2016 fiscal year. The Department of Transport in KwaZulu-Natal has set aside R1.5 million for vehicle registration plates for the province. A secure electronic mark will be used in the encryption of the code. The system can automatically generate the details of driving offences committed by a driver.[2]

As of January 2022, new vehicles are, however, still being fitted with plastic plates and the system has still not been implemented.

New legislation also requires that a new vehicle's number plate be fixed to the body of the vehicle, or an approved number plate holder, with four 4 mm rivets.



Number plates are available in plastic or metal. Plastic is the preferred material used by the majority of the motorists. They are also more common than their metal counterpart and are issued as standard plates by car dealerships, except in Gauteng Province where, from 2013, newly issued plates must be metal.


The most common size is identical to the European number plates' size (113 mm × 520 mm (4.4 in × 20.5 in)) . However, a shorter plate is also common (120 mm × 440 mm (4.7 in × 17.3 in)). Most car dealerships now issue the former. Other shapes such as American and motorbike sizes are also available. Number plates can be made over the counter at registration/licensing stores in shopping centres, although the vehicle registration document may be required.


The standard annual non-personalised licence fee is between R250 and R600, depending on the province in which the vehicle is registered and the weight of the vehicle. A large number of heavy vehicles are registered in Northern and Eastern Cape[3] where the licence fees per vehicle mass are low.[4] The Western Cape has the most expensive annual licence fees,[5] but as with Northern and Eastern Cape, it has few toll roads.[6]

Vehicle owners can buy specific personalised registration numbers from registering authorities. The cost for a single digit registration e.g. CA 1 will be in the region of R6000 while a long number e.g. CA 12345 can be as low as R600.[7]



Province Standard Plates Personalised Plates Example Colouring Graphics
Western Cape Province Cab # xzzzzzz WP

 CA 123-456 
Black on white
(Black on yellow still legal)
KwaZulu-Natal Province Nab # xzzzzz ZN  NN 21514 
Blue on white (Green on white for personalised plates){Black on white for Vehicle transporting people for reward (Taxis and Buses)} Red on white with "KZN" Prefix for Government vehicles None
Mpumalanga Province aaa+++ MP xzzzzz MP  BBC123 MP 
Black on white Stylised rising sun
Eastern Cape Province aaa+++ EC xzzzzz EC  BBC 123 EC 
Black on graphic Elephant and aloe
Limpopo Province aaa+++ L xzzzzz L  BBC 123 L 
Black on white baobab tree and provincial coat of arms
Gauteng Province aaa+++ GP
aa++aa GP
xzzzzzz GP  BBC 123 GP 
 BC 12 DF GP 

Blue on white Provincial coat of arms
Northern Cape Province aaa+++ NC xzzzzz NC  BBC 123 NC 
Green on white Gemsbok and sand dune
Free State Province aaa+++ FS xzzzzz FS
Black on graphic
Green on graphic
North West Province aaa+++ NW xzzzzz NW  BBC 123 NW 
Black on graphic Maize cob, elephant, sunflower and mine headgear
Diplomatic vehicles +++(D or C or X or S) +++D [Old]
(D or C or X or S) BBa +++ D [New]
None C BBN 371 D  Red (for D plates) or Green (for C, X and S plates) on White None
National and provincial government vehicles Gaa+++ G None  GBC 123 G  Black on yellow None
South African Police Service vehicles Baa+++ B None  BCB 123 B 
Black on white / blue on white (Gauteng) None / Gauteng provincial coat of arms
South African National Defence Force vehicles aaa+++ M None  BCB 123 M  Black on yellow None
  • In the Eastern Cape, provincial government vehicles (especially Health Department) have red letters and a red frame on white.
  • Limpopo was initially named Northern Province and used the code N. When the name changed, a new sequence of numbers began, ending in L.
  • The Gauteng and Western Cape province offers personalised number plates up to a maximum of 7 characters as opposed to the traditional (and those of other provinces) 6 character limit.[8][9]


  • UPPER CASE LETTERS: Literal letters in the number plate
  • a: compulsory letter (A – Z)
  • b: letter (A – Z) or nothing
  • x: compulsory character (A – Z, 0 – 9)
  • z: character (A – Z, 0 – 9) or nothing
  • #: an integer number (1 – 999,999)
  • +: a compulsory digit (0 – 9)
  • NB: Vowels are not used on private vehicles.

After 1994, the Western Cape Province and KwaZulu-Natal Province are the only two provinces where the registration can be still linked to specific towns and cities. i.e. the pre-1980 system has largely been retained in these areas, so the first two or three letters at the start of each number plate identify where the vehicle was licensed.

Western Cape[edit]

Map of the registration prefixes in the Western Cape

In 1994, the Cape Province was subdivided into three provinces (Western, Eastern and Northern Cape provinces). The Eastern and Northern Cape changed their licensing system so the Cape Province registration prefixes used there, like CB (Port Elizabeth) and CC (Kimberley), were dropped. The homeland states of Ciskei and Transkei became part of the Eastern Cape. The Stellaland district (Vryburg) became part of North West Province. The current Western Cape Province list is essentially an abbreviation of the pre-1980 Cape Province list.

Western Cape Province
Registration Location
CA or CAA Cape Town Afrikaans: Kaapstad, Xhosa: iKapa (CAA was first introduced on 13 April 2019 when Cape Town ran out of CA combinations).[10]
CAM Caledon & Kleinmond
CAR Clanwilliam, Lambert's Bay, Citrusdal, Graafwater
CAW or CAG George (When the George area ran out of CAW combinations in late 2019, CAG started being issued. CAG used to be the code for Barkly West, Northern Cape which now uses NC).
CBL Ladismith
CBM Laingsburg
CBR Montagu
CBS Mossel Bay & Hartenbos. Afrikaans: Mosselbaai.
CBT Murraysburg
CBY Piketberg
CCA Prince Albert Afrikaans: Prins Albert.
CCC Riversdale & Stilbaai. Afrikaans: Riversdal.
CCD Robertson & McGregor
CCK Swellendam & Barrydale
CCM Tulbagh
CCO Uniondale
CCP Van Rhynsdorp, Klawer. Afrikaans: Vanrhynsdorp.
CEA Moorreesburg
CEG Heidelberg
CEM Hermanus, Gansbaai, Onrus River & Stanford
CEO Grabouw & Elgin
CER Bonnievale
CES Albertinia
CEX Porterville
CEY Strand & Gordon's Bay. Now part of the City of Cape Town.
CF Kuils River, Brackenfell, Kraaifontein (Since about 2000; previously the code for Grahamstown, Eastern Cape). Now part of the City of Cape Town.
CFA Wolseley
CFG Vredenburg, Saldanha & St Helena Bay
CFM Somerset West. Now part of the City of Cape Town.
CFP Velddrif & Laaiplek
CFR Kuils River & Brackenfell (Still seen on older vehicles.) Now part of the City of Cape Town.
CG Oudtshoorn
CJ Paarl
CK Malmesbury & Darling
CL Stellenbosch & Franschhoek
CN Wellington
CO Calitzdorp
CR Hopefield, Langebaan & Langebaan Road
CS Bredasdorp & Napier
CT Ceres
CV Vredendal
CW Worcester, De Doorns & Touws River
CX Knysna, Sedgefield & Plettenberg Bay
CY Bellville, Durbanville, Parow, Goodwood. Now part of the City of Cape Town.
CZ Beaufort West
CCT City of Cape Town vehicles. Previously the code for Willowmore, Eastern Cape.


KwaZulu-Natal Province
Registration Location
NA Harding
NB Bergville
NBA Babanango
NC Camperdown, Hammarsdale
NCO Colenso
NCH Chatsworth. Now part of eThekwini.
NCW Kokstad
ND Durban. Now part of eThekwini.
NDE Dundee
NDH Dannhauser
NDW Ndwedwe
NE Estcourt
NES Eshowe
NF Msinga
NGL Glencoe
NH New Hannover
NHL Hlabisa, Mtubatuba, Hluhluwe
NIM Impendle
NIN Ingwavuma
NIP Polela
NIX Ixopo
NJ Inanda, Ntuzuma, KwaMashu, Verulam, Tongaat. Now part of eThekwini.
NK Richmond
NKA Nkandla
NKK Kranskop
NKR Ladysmith (Klip River District)
NKU Ulundi
NM Maphumulo
NMA Mahlabatini
NMG Magudu
NMR Mooi River
NMZ Umzimkhulu Previously part of the Cape (code CDP) and then of Transkei (XH), as an enclave in Natal. Transferred to KwaZulu-Natal in 2006.
NN Newcastle
NND Nongoma
NO Melmoth Mthonjaneni district, Zululand.
NP Pietermaritzburg Capital of KwaZulu-Natal.
NPG Pongola This town, on the north bank of the Phongolo River, used to be part of the Transvaal panhandle between Eswatini and Natal, with its border on the Phongolo. It used the code TAG (Piet Retief).
NPN Pinetown Now part of eThekwini.
NPP Paulpietersburg
NR Lions River, Howick
NRB Richards Bay
NS Ngotshe
NSC Port Shepstone, Hibberdene, Margate, Port Edward, Southbroom
NT Stanger & Ballito
NTU Nquthu
NU New Germany, Hillcrest, Kloof, Durban, Gillitts , Pinetown,. Now part of eThekwini
NUB Ubombo
NUD Underberg
NUF Empangeni
NUL Umbumbulu
NUM Greytown
NUR Umhlanga, Umdloti, La Lucia . Now part of eThekwini.
NUT Utrecht
NUZ Umlazi. Now part of EThekwini
NV Vryheid
NW Weenen
NX Scottburgh, Umkomaas, Umzinto, formerly Alexandra County.
NZ Mtunzini, Gingindlovu
Provincial and Local Government Location
KZN KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government
NCS KwaZulu-Natal Conservative Center
NDM eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality
NPC Msunduzi Municipality, Pietermaritzburg

Free State[edit]

The Free State is the only province in South Africa that places an expiry date on its registration plate. Every five years the owner is required to replace the plate irrespective of condition.[11] This is only enforced in the Free State and if the owner uses the vehicle with "expired" plates in any other province he/she will not be prosecuted. This expiry is independent from the annual licence renewal required by national law. This is the only province in the country that has the same borders today as it did before the Boer War, although it has had three changes of name. It was the Orange Free State (a Boer republic), the Orange River Colony (1902-1910), the Orange Free State Province (Provinsie Oranje Vrystaat, 1910–1994) and is now simply the Free State.

North West[edit]

A new numbering system was announced in December 2015, which would be implemented in February 2016.[12]

Legal requirements[edit]

All vehicles in South Africa, excluding motorcycles, are required to display a number plate on the front and the rear of the vehicle. For vehicles that cannot accommodate a full size plate in front, a plate with smaller dimensions may be fitted with permission from the registering authority.

The validation of a vehicle's registration number is indicated by a licence disc displayed inside the vehicle's windshield and must be visible from the passenger side of the vehicle. The vehicle's registration number, VIN and engine number as well as the licence expiry date, vehicle weight and number of passengers the vehicle is allowed to carry is indicated on the disc.

In the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, where the registration number is indicative of the town of registration, the registration number will not change when the owner of the vehicle relocates to another town in the same province. It is required of the owner to inform the authorities of a change of address within 21 days. However, if the owner relocates to another province, the owner has to register the vehicle in that province within 21 days. Whenever a vehicle is registered in a new owner's name, the vehicle will receive the registration of the new owner's town. If the vehicle is registered in the same town as the current registration, no change of registration number takes place.

When a vehicle changes ownership it is required that the vehicle be taken for a roadworthy test. The new owner is allowed to use a vehicle for a period of 21 days on the previous owner's registration before the vehicle has to be registered in the new owner's name. If the roadworthy result cannot be obtained within this period, the owner may register the vehicle without being roadworthy, however a licence disc will not be issued and the vehicle may not be used on a public road. A temporary permit must be obtained from the registering authority to drive the vehicle to the testing station or repair shop. The permit is valid for three days.

When a person buys a vehicle from a dealer in another province or town other than the one they live in, a temporary permit valid for three weeks is issued by the registration authorities. A vehicle can only be registered in the town the owner lives in. It is also not possible to renew the licence in any other town than the town the registered owner lives in.

The temporary permit is a cardboard "number plate" to be displayed in either the front or rear window of the vehicle.

When a vehicle's engine is replaced or the VIN and engine number needs to be verified for some legal reason, the vehicle needs to obtain police clearance. Since September 2012, a vehicle can only obtain a clearance if it was marked with a micro dot, or data dot system. This is a process where about 10,000 micro dots with a serial number on is sprayed with a resin onto all components of the vehicle. This serial number is linked to the vehicle's VIN on the national registration database. These dots can be found with an ultraviolet light and when magnified the serial number can be traced. New vehicles are treated in the factory and the dots carry the vehicle's VIN. This is to assist the authorities in identifying a vehicle or any part thereof when VIN and engine numbers are not legible, or have been removed.

Legislation is also on the table to have micro dotting made compulsory for all vehicles changing owners as well as requiring a 2-yearly roadworthy status for vehicles older than 10 years. The downside of this is that it might cause many poorer South Africans not to register vehicles in their name or to let licences lapse and just pay the fine when getting caught.

It is illegal in South Africa to alter or tamper with a vehicle's VIN or the factory stamped number on an engine in any way. Evidence of tampering will lead to the vehicles being confiscated and possibly destroyed.

Historical Plates[edit]

Before 1994, South Africa had only four provinces: Cape Province, Natal Province, Orange Free State and Transvaal. Each province had its own identifying lettering: Cape – C, Natal – N, Orange Free State – O and Transvaal – T.


  1. ^ "South Africa plates information". (in Spanish). Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  2. ^ "Intelligent Number Plates Postponed in South Africa". 3 June 2010. Archived from the original on 16 May 2013.
  3. ^ Staff Writer. "The cost of personalised number plates in South Africa – BusinessTech". Retrieved 20 July 2022.
  4. ^ "Pricing | Plates SA". Retrieved 20 July 2022.
  5. ^ Muller, Willem. "Here's what you can you get on your number plate in SA – for up to R150,000". Businessinsider. Retrieved 20 July 2022.
  6. ^ "How Much Does A Number Plate Cost In South Africa". 2022/2023. Retrieved 20 July 2022.
  7. ^ "Personalise your motor vehicle number plate | South African Government". Retrieved 20 July 2022.
  8. ^ "Apply for Personalized/Special Number Plates - Gauteng Provincial Government | Visit Us Online". Retrieved 22 September 2023.
  9. ^ "New CAA licence numbers | Western Cape Mobility Department". Retrieved 22 September 2023.
  10. ^ "CA number plates will soon become CAA". Western Cape Government. 8 April 2019. Archived from the original on 16 May 2019. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ North West first with new plates

External links[edit]