MOTORING: How safe is your car?

If any locksmith can reproduce car keys without being monitored or regulated, it becomes dangerous — file picture
If any locksmith can reproduce car keys without being monitored or regulated, it becomes dangerous — file picture

I guess the adage that “It takes years to build a name and a split second to destroy it” is true. It’s now confirmed and on record that Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson will not be having his contract renewed by the BBC over a “fracas” with Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon because there was “no hot food” after a day’s filming.

I will not judge the man. I wonder what Top Gear will be like without Jeremy Clarkson. He was a man of great talent who turned Top Gear into a programme that was watched the world over with a strong following.

He made Top Gear what we have all come to know. A tragic end to a career well executed. Clarkson was more Top Gear than the BBC programme itself.

Well, back to this week’s business, lately there has been an increase in car locksmiths who offer car key replacements for any make and model in Harare.

A car is arguably the second most valuable asset that one will ever buy in their lifetime after a house, although back here in Zimbabwe a car is arguably the most valuable asset as most people have been forced to be lodgers due to housing backlogs dogging most local authorities.

In recent months, there has been an increase in local companies that offer key replacements for vehicles of all makes. The big question is: who regulates these guys? There is absolutely nothing wrong with enterprising and being self-employed, but it boggles the mind when anyone can make a spare key to any car and there is no specific Government department or ministry to oversee such a business.

For all I know, it is not as easy to get a replacement key for a BMW in South Africa from a dealership without a registration book of the vehicle that needs a key replacement or spare key. The national ID or passport of the owner of the vehicle is needed, which essentially means that the owner of the car has to be physically present at the dealership.

I still stand to be corrected on this one. However, in Zimbabwe it’s very easy to get a key replacement for any vehicle without all checks and balances being followed.

I know and you will agree with me that Zimbabwe is one country that has a zero tolerance against car theft. The Vehicle Theft Squad continues to demonstrate its efficiency to bring carjackers to book and they have to be commended.

Thumbs-up to them for the great job they are doing currently despite the innumerable challenges that continue to confront them.

Maybe there needs to be legislation to regulate the reproduction of spare keys for vehicles in this country.

A police report from VTS, national ID and vehicle registration book would suffice as a fundamental requirement for keys to be reproduced. And there would be proper documentation for the spare keys reproduced

Either the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, through the Vehicle Inspectorate Department, or police, through the VTS, must surely be active players in these transactions.

Zimbabweans are a very enterprising lot, but if you have owned a car and you get all these key replacement flyers from the newspaper vendors, you can’t help but wonder if your car is safe.

My intention must not be misconstrued: I don’t wish to be controversial, but crucially there is need for action.

I am definitely not pushing for these companies doing key replacements and coding to be shut down, but I am advocating for them to operate within a framework of set rules and parameters.

Truth being told, there are a number of factors that come into play when it comes to replacing car keys and these range from the particular car’s country of origin and year of manufacture and model, amongst other variables.

Our neighbour South Africa has the Locksmiths’ Association of South Africa, which is regulated by an Act of Parliament and falls under the auspices of the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority. All locksmiths are required to be registered.

You will agree with me that there is need for restrictions on key-cutting equipment and specialist key coding software and tools that, in the wrong hands, can become weapons in the hands of criminals.

The South African Act has been in existence since 2001.

In a country like South Africa where statistics show that between 91 000 and 120 000 vehicles worth R8 billion are stolen every year — with an average of 300 cars stolen per day — Zimbabwean authorities can take a leaf and protect the motoring public through legislation on key replacement or locksmiths.

I strongly believe that issues to do with replacement of car keys for any reason cannot just be left vague.

Anything to do with a spare key to anyone’s vehicle is a security issue that cannot be taken lightly.

These guys are not approved by any car manufacturer to do key replacements, let alone affiliated to any organisation.

It is my humble opinion that the Ministry of Home Affairs, through the ZRP VTS, or the Ministry of Transport, through VID, seriously look into this issue.

The car key locksmiths themselves have to regulate their own activities by at least putting in place a Code of Ethics.

I wonder how one sleeps knowing that someone can produce a key that can actually open their car, start it and drive away.

Stolen cars are a major concern for insurance companies in South Africa.

It seems local insurers are sleeping on the wheel but electing to remain silent on this issue.

 

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