Sunday, April 17, 2016


We interrupt the retelling of our Mozambique adventures to provide an update on the cloned license plate situation and the ridiculous series of events that transpired as Mr. Deep tried with unwavering drive (bad pun) and determination to resolve the situation.

The last I wrote about this issue (in this post) we attempted to get new license plates. But after driving around the Joburg CBD in the rain for half a morning we were unable to find the Dept of Transport office and eventually we called off the search due to massive frustration.

Mr. Deep is tenacious though (tenacious deep) and he couldn't stand watching some other driver continue to rack up charges on our e-toll account and so he had to act. He worked for several weeks to tackle and eventually solve this problem.

Here are the events as they happened as told to me by Mr. Deep.

23 March 2016

Summary of my day not including the work (at my job) that I needed to do. Called at least six different phone numbers for Dept of Transport/Licensing to try to find out where their office was located so that I could go down there to get new license plates.
  • Two of the numbers were no longer in service.
  • Two of the numbers just rang and rang and no one answered. 
  • One number someone answered but then gave me a different number to call. 
  • One number someone answered, transferred me to another person who listened to my story, put me on hold, picked up again, and then hung up on me. I called that number back and got hung up on again. 
Finally I called my insurance company for advice. The person I spoke with suggested I get new plates, which of course I already knew. The question I needed answered was what is the location of the place where a person can obtain new plates? I asked this question and was given a different Dept of Transport location. I thanked them but also asked them to make a note in my file that in the likely event I get hauled off to jail for hit and run vehicular manslaughter to please note that someone else has cloned my plates. The service rep laughed and said they would note the duplicate plate situation. I called the number the insurance company gave to me but that number was not in service. 

I drove back to the traffic registry office where we started in Sandton and asked to see a supervisor. The supervisor looked up the plate number and said it was not issued to anyone else and agreed it was probably cloned. Note that I don't really care if the plate was cloned or was accidentally assigned to someone else, my problem is still the same. The supervisor gave me the phone number and an information form so I could find the elusive Dept of Transport office where one can go to get new plates. The supervisor suggested we get personalized license plates and said that would solve the problem. After I left, I tried to call the number she provided for the Dept of Transport but it was not in service. #^@#%#$^@&@!!!!!

Slightly annoyed at this point (in other words raging pissed off) I gave up on the idea of calling and instead decided to drive down to the Joburg CBD and find the Dept of Transport office once and for all. My plan was to park and try to find it on foot.  After driving several laps around the target area I finally found a parking place. Yes I had to 'pay the lady.' (editor's note, the lady is like a human meter and you have to pay her in order to park.) I then walked several blocks in search of the Dept of Transport which you will remember was supposedly located in the "ABSA building.

I asked a parking guard where the ABSA building was located and he pointed to the same building we had seen previously - the run down, about-to-be-condemned shell of a building that looks like it is probably a home for crack addicts. It was then that I noticed an ABSA ATM on one corner of the building. Ah...the ABSA building is called the ABSA building because it contains an ABSA ATM machine. Silly me had been looking for a giant ABSA sign on the building itself. I walked inside.  It was very dark as I slowly walked down a long and desolate hallway. Finally I spotted a security desk. I asked the security guard if this was indeed the Dept of Transport.

"What do you need?" she asked. I told her I needed new license plates. "Our system is down today" she said. 

But all was not lost. The woman wrote down her direct phone number and gave me her name. She told me to call back tomorrow or whenever I could muster up the courage, energy and strength to try again to solve this problem. At least with a phone number I could make sure the system was back up before returning. I politely said thanks and left. So let's call this one the "successful failure" as I did find the right place and seems that eventually I can solve this problem. 

11 April 2016

This shit never ends. I went back downtown to the ABSA building. I called ahead (yes that phone number was valid) and this time the system was up and running. But of course when I arrived I was told I had the wrong form. I filled out the correct form to get new, personalized license plates and then had to pay a whopping fee of R2700 (about $185!) Finally, I received my new personalized plate number. Woo hoo! But I was not quite done. The lady told me I had to go back to the original traffic registry office in Sandton to get my new updated registration disk (the one that sticks on the dashboard.) She said the new disk was going to cost me another R180. I asked her where I could get the new license plates and she said I had to visit one of those stores that makes license plates. Like, you know, the type of store where the cloner went to have replicas of our original plates made. I went back to the traffic registry office in Sandton (about a 20 minute drive) and waited in a long line. Finally, I made it up to the counter. 

I explained that I was here for my disk and that other office had sent me here.The woman pulled out a blank form for me to fill out which I instantly recognized as the one I already had with me (thank you Ops!!) I confidently said "oh I have that right here!" Then the other requirements were fired at me as if from a Gatling gun:  Copy of passport: check.  Copy of traffic register: check.  Old registration: check.  Proof of address: check (Thank you again Ops!!) What else? Nothing, here is your "check in form," please wait in the queue. Wait..what? Another #^@*@^#!! line?  Yes. This was only the "receiving" line or the line that verifies you have everything you need.  So after ascertaining where the beginning of the next line was I sat down and waited for my turn.  I then had to pay another R588 plus the R180 (even though I was told it was only going to cost R180.) Honestly I would have cut off a finger and handed it to this woman to get the hell out of here with the disk once and for all.  Once I paid, I was given the new registration disk. But, when I checked the disk it had the old license plate number printed on it. Shocking I know.  So I had to wait around for them to fix their error. Good thing I checked! Finally I got the corrected disk, drove around the corner and found the license plate place and got the new plates (this was by far the easiest step in the process which says a lot about the situation and how we got here in the first place.)  The whole project only took about ten hours and cost a total of R3486 (about $289.)

Thanks to Mr. Deep's extraordinary efforts I now have personalized license plates. Tastes in clothes, food, music and many other things change over the course of a lifetime as you mature, but one thing that hasn't changed is my dislike for personalized (or as they are called in the U.S., vanity) license plates. I think they are dumb, narcissistic and a complete waste of money. When I see someone driving with personalized plates, I immediately form a non flattering opinion of the person. I know that's judgmental. So now the joke is on me as I am the one driving around with personalized plates and I am likely being judged by others as some type of wealthy self-involved woman who has nothing better to do with her time or money then get personalized plates. And please don't misunderstand. I am grateful to Mr. Deep for solving this problem. Really, I am.

My personalized plates read "SCHMOOL GP." I laughed out loud when I saw them because even though I knew Mr. Deep was working to get me personalized plates, I didn't realize they would be actually personalized in such a personal way. I thought he'd just choose a random letter and number combination. But no. Schmool is a pet name that Mr. Deep has been calling me for years. I won't burden you with the story of how Schmool got her name. It's a cute name, but it's kind of private. I mean it used to be.

Right down to the end, this project was a complete pain. Even removing the old plates and installing the new ones was practically impossible because the old ones were bolted on like they were a critical piece of the space shuttle. 

Here I am posing with my new plates in the "schmool-mobile."  I think these plates are unlikely to be cloned.

GP stands for Gauteng Province by the way.


  1. Bwahaha, you guys crack me up! This will all make a nice book one day. If you don't write one, I will have to feature this story in mine. Which I will write one day:-) Please tell Mr. Deep I can definitely commiserate as I was the one always running these errands. I know the office well where you get in line and have all your stuff and then have to wait in another line as the first line was just to make sure you had all your stuff. How is it, despite all this, I still miss South Africa?

    1. This is definitely one of the craziest red tape stories we have experienced so far and you are right even though it was totally annoying and a huge waste of time the whole thing was funny and in a weird way made South Africa even more lovable.

  2. I'm convinced that the entire SA bureaucracy is a giant employment scheme designed such that there is broad enough patronage so the ANC maintain a electoral majority.


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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.