Friday 16 April 2021
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What’s in a number plate?

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One would wonder what it takes to convince a car owner to spend a little over N$2000 in initial payments just so they have access to a licence number that distinguishes them from the rest of the road users in a very unique way. They differentiate one car from the rest and make vehicles particularly identifiable. This is especially so for vehicles of reasonably high purchasing value. In order to add a touch to the already high price of the vehicle, owners may use plate numbers.
As the saying goes that variety is the spice of life, the use of Personalized Licence Number (PLN) has proven to be the rising trend in the motoring sector where a number of car owners use this licencing system to their pleasure.
Personal number plates have been said to denote the personality of car owners and are in themselves a unique feature on most vehicles. Seeing as some cars have personalized number plates with scripture references while others may have wordings of the sentiments held by car owners, it is assumed that people may use personalized plate numbers to communicate a side to their character.
Others have used this initiative to brandish their convictions to all who are willing and ready to see and subconsciously listen. “My plate number is a reflection of Gods blessings in my life… it’s a bible verse to show whoever I meet that I didn’t just get this car – it was a blessing from God,” says Potiphar Mbewe.Through the NaTIS offices, the Roads Authority is responsible for handling applications put in by members of the public to have their vehicles branded with personalized plates of choice.
Most applicants are accepted on first attempt, however application in itself is no guarantee of approval as some people would assume. The criteria for acceptance follows a strict procedure that includes a first come first serve attendance basis as one component. In the event of a clash in number plates, the provided three alternatives prove a useful fall back mechanism for the Roads Authority.
The range of options given allows for the applicant to sort their priorities in the order of their selection. This is to mean that the most preferred option comes first followed by the second best alternative. In the event that both options do not make the cut, the Roads Authority then reverts on the third option to be assessed for possible approval.
In some instances, PLN’s do have some emotional attachments for their owners. They are motivated in some cases by certain factors that owners hold very dearly to them and that they deem necessary to be reminded of on an almost daily basis.
For some motorists, the number plates are a form of reminder of the achievements they have made in their lives. The question is often asked whether brandishing a personalised number plate identifies you as someone who has more money than others? Some say it is a method of reminding themselves and those who see them that they have made significance advances in their lives. One such a driver is Tanswell Davies who drives a BMW 220i, he says, “I bought this vehicle the time they where just released. Having been a lover of the various BMW series’, and actually owning one at the time, I took a liking for the convertible 2 series. When I bought it, I was informed that I was the first person and even now, one of the few, that have this exact one in Namibia. What better way to showcase this move than by calling the car; 1ST 220 NA” Davies says.
The use of these personalized plates has been taken up by business owners who use it as a means to increase their branding abilities and spectrum by reaching to potential clients as they drive their automobiles. Local businessman Ronald Msiska says his rebranded plate number has enhanced his business as he now receives calls from people whom he just drove by. He says “am happy with this plate coupled with the phone number printing on the sides, because it is in itself a form of advertising. I will be driving from buying groceries and because of the brand on my car; people will stop me and ask about the electrical services I offer.”
It is important to note that Personalized Licence Numbers (PLN) can only be acquired through the Roads Authority NaTis offices. The Roads Authority is also responsible for the production and provision of necessary materials seeing as they are specific details to observe.
Drivers must be careful to avoid scammers from defrauding them off their money with claims of being able to process documentation and provide licence plates in a shorter period of time than stipulated by the Roads Authority. Such succumbing to false claims will inevitably result in undesirable repercussions by relevant authorities.
“A PLN consist of a maximum of seven alphabetical or numerical characters or a combination of alpha-numerical characters followed by the Namibian national flag and the letters NA depicting Namibia.” The Roads Authority says.
It is argued that personalized number plates are unnecessarily expensive and are as such meant to target a specific group of drivers. The N$1800 fee payable within 21 days of approval of application is seen as an inflated figure compared to the ordinary number plate which costs around N$190 for both front and back. Failure to pay this amount results in forfeiture and allocation of PLN to other applicants. And in order to maintain the number an annual renewal fee of N$240-00 is payable.
Car owners who have opted to use the general number plates available have argued that their cars are easily distinguishable by the number plates. It often leaves you more exposed. Perhaps personalised number plates are an investment for the future with a legacy component.
By Stephen Nyoni

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