As part of its efforts to curb air pollution, the City of Cape Town’s health directorate on Sunday appealed to the public to report excessive smoke emissions in vehicles.

“Vehicular traffic is the biggest source of air pollution in Cape Town, accounting for up to 66 percent of the visible portion of air pollution,” mayoral committee member for health Siyabulela Mamkeli said. City health had an air quality management unit tasked with enforcing the provisions of the Air Quality Management By-law. The by-law bans the use of vehicles that emit dark smoke.

“Where such vehicles are spotted by the public, the owners are requested to have a free emissions test conducted. Should the vehicle fail the test, a repair notice will be served on the owner, affording them the opportunity to have the vehicle repaired and to submit it for a re-test.”


“Non-compliance can result in the owner being served with a summons,” Mamkeli said. The by-law also stated that vehicles emitting dark smoke may be towed away and the costs recovered from vehicle owners. Any person guilty of an offence in terms of the by-law was liable on conviction to imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or to a fine, or to both a fine and imprisonment. In addition, a dedicated team conducted roadside diesel vehicle emissions testing on a daily basis in partnership with the city’s traffic service.

Between July 1 and December 31 last year, 3947 diesel vehicles were tested, with a total of 14 failing to meet the diesel emission standards.

“That’s less than half-a-percent, compared with the 17 percent failure rate when the city first started doing the diesel emissions tests in 2000. I think the substantial drop can be attributed to visible policing; improvement in the quality of diesel (5500ppm sulphur in diesel when we started testing vehicles in the year 2000, down to 500ppm since 2006, 50ppm is freely available); continual improvement in emissions control technology of the modern diesel engine; and vehicle owners improving on maintaining their vehicles,” Mamkeli said.


Members of the public could report excessive smoke emissions from vehicles to the city’s air quality management unit during office hours on 021-590-5200. Information required included the vehicle’s registration number, the make and model, the location and direction of travel, and the date and time the observation was made.

In Johannesburg the number to call is 011-407-7177; in Durban, dial 031-311-3555.

“Our officials are then able to obtain the owner(s) details with the help of the traffic department officials and send them a letter requesting that the vehicle be submitted for a free emissions test.

“It is key to get all vehicle owners to assess their behaviour and determine whether they’re contributing to the problem. Get your car serviced regularly and take public transport or join a lift club if possible to help ease congestion and pollution. Challenge yourself constantly to see how you can help reduce vehicle emissions and challenge your family and friends to do the same,” Mamkeli said.