KwaZulu-Natal motorists who have outstanding traffic warrants of arrest will soon be forced to settle their debt before renewing their licences.
This comes in the wake of Durban Metro Police releasing statistics that motorists in the eThekwini Municipality owe more than R70-million in outstanding warrants.
The Department of Transport this week notified traffic authorities in KwaZulu-Natal that all computer systems will undergo an upgrade after which they will be able to detect outstanding warrants.
The new specialised computer system that can identify outstanding warrants when motorists renew their car or driver's licences will come into effect in March. The new systems will be installed at all the licensing offices and testing stations throughout KwaZulu-Natal. This will enable computers to link up with the main computer system which would do a check for warrants when the application for a new licence is made.
In April, computers at stores and post offices which issue licences will also be upgraded with the new software. This will then send out an alert that the person has outstanding warrants when trying to renew a licence.
Staff members operating the computers will not be able to renew the licence until the warrants have been paid or arrangements for payments have been made.
Metro Police in the meantime are hoping this new development will reduce the large number of outstanding warrants: there are 335 559 outstanding warrants in Durban and an amount of R72 560 000 owing.
Metro Police spokesperson Superintendent Alex Wright said this decision would play a vital role in encouraging motorists to pay their outstanding fines.
"We are hoping motorists will use this opportunity to pay their fines rather than wait to be alerted when they go to renew their licences.
"These computer systems will be highly specialised and can detect outstanding warrants.
"We urge motorists to take it seriously and come to us to arrange to pay their outstanding fines.
"Tellers will have to refuse the renewal of licences until the warrants have been settled. There will be a standardised system across all stations so motorists should not bother trying to go to another station to renew their licences because it will still show up on the computer system."
Motorists who have outstanding warrants have been urged to make arrangements to pay these fines, said Wright.
"Motorists who have outstanding warrants can come to us and seek advice. Together we can work on a payment plan that will suit their budget. Once this has been done, it will show up on the computers. They will then be able to renew their driver's or vehicle licence.
"There are many motorists who have deliberately changed their addresses without notifying us. They need to be made aware that the law states that if you change your address, you should notify the registrar within 21 days.
"We have instances where we go to people's homes to carry out an arrest and someone says the offender is not available. We later find out that very same person was the one sought by the police."
Anyone who wants to arrange a payment plan for outstanding fines can phone the Metro Police warrants department at 031 306 4422 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm). They can also visit the Metro Police Station at 16 Old Fort Road, Durban, (office hours).
This article was originally published on page 2 of The Independent on Saturday on January 20, 2007