Please note that since this book was last published in 1997 some of the laws that have been referenced may have changed. We
are doing our best to update the articles, however, it is advisable that you to consult an attorney before relying on any information contained herein.
When you drive over the border in southern Africa, you may be
confronted with traffic laws, customs and insurance requirements
that differ from those in South Africa. To ensure trouble-free
motoring, you should attend to the formalities at least a month
in advance of an intended journey and learn about the regulations
of the countries you intend to visit.
Ensure that everyone in the party who intends to drive
possesses a valid driving licence. A learner's licence may not be
sufficient. Your South African driving licence is recognised in
Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia
If you intend driving in any other country, you should take
with you an international driving licence obtainable from the
Automobile Association. These are valid for 12 months in '1926
and 1949 Convention' countries and for up to 36 months in '1968
Take your South African driving licence with you even if you
have an international licence; a car hire firm may need it as
proof that you have been a licensed driver for more than 12
If you have not been issued with an identity document (book of life), a certified
Photostat copy of a separate valid driving licence is recognised
in most countries except Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi,
where you must produce the original licence or an international
Temporary export of motor vehicles
If you drive beyond the southern African common customs area,
your car will be regarded as a temporary export, liable for
import duty when you return.
South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland
comprise the common customs area. When you enter another country,
record (in duplicate) the particulars of your car on form NEP
(customs), so that you do not have to pay duty on it when you
Other articles on which duty can be imposed, such as cameras,
must also be recorded on this form.
To conform with exchange-control regulations, all vehicles
that are temporarily exported by air or sea from South Africa or
by rail to Zimbabwe must be recorded on a 'Declaration in respect
of goods leaving the Rand Monetary Area' form NEP. Ask an
official at your bank to assist you to complete this form.
South African registration and licence documents for motor
vehicles are recognised in most countries. If you drive a vehicle
that is not registered in your name, such as a 'company car' or a
car that you've borrowed from someone, you must be in possession
of a police clearance certificate to confirm that the vehicle has
not been stolen. You can get an international certificate for
motor vehicles from the Automobile Association, although this
document is not required for travel in southern Africa.
Ask your insurer or broker whether your comprehensive
insurance policy is valid in the countries you intend to visit
and what arrangements must be made for cover in terms of the
Multilateral Motor Vehicle Accidents Fund (MMF). A temporary
extension of a comprehensive policy can be arranged to meet most
contingencies while touring beyond the border.
Some insurers, including the Automobile Association, have
special 'package' travel insurance policies, which include cover
for personal accident insurance, medical expenses and cover for
caravans and trailers.
THIRD PARTY INSURANCE This is compulsory in
most countries in the world. South African (MMF) cover is valid
only in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho. In other
countries, special certificates of insurance must be obtained
from your insurer before you start your journey. You must produce
the valid licence clearance certificate and car registration
papers of each vehicle to be insured when you apply for this type
of cover. It is also advisable to take your car registration
papers and a police clearance certificate with you in case you
have to prove that you own the vehicle you're driving.
Some countries levy a special road safety tax on cars entering
from across the border. The amount varies from territory to
territory and is payable at border posts.
At Lesotho border posts, a toll is levied on vehicles leaving
The South African international registration plate (ZA) must
be displayed at the rear of vehicles, including trailers and
caravans registered in South Africa.
An illuminated or luminous warning sign in the form of a
yellow triangle on a blue square must be displayed at the front
of the towing vehicle and the rear of the trailer or caravan.
The registration number of the towing vehicle must be
displayed at the rear of the trailer or caravan, together with
the registration number of the towed vehicle in Malawi and
Zambia. This is not required in Zimbabwe, but in all three
countries a caravan must show a red 'T' plate to the rear and a
white one at the right front of the caravan. Two safety chains
must be attached to the tow-bar.