Obed Bapela, communications deputy
minister, has been on the road urging
South Africans to register their sim cards.
(Images: Bongani Nkosi)
• Busiswa Mlandu
Department of Communications
+27 72 070 6896
The number of mobile phone users in South Africa who’ve registered their network connection or sim cards in accordance with the new Regulation of Interception of Communication Act (Rica) has jumped to over 37-million.
About 2.7-million users are yet to register their sim cards, as just a day remains before operators switch them off the networks.
The country’s operators, Vodacom, Cell C, MTN and 8ta, have made significant progress in registering users over the last few months. The Department of Communications said only in March 2011 there were over 7-million outstanding users.
Now 95% of the population is registered and the campaign to record the rest is notching up a gear as the deadline looms only 36 hours away.
Those who’ve not yet registered at their local outlets have been warned that they will be cut off the networks by midnight on 30 June.
“We want to thank South Africans for responding to the call. Registering 95% is quite an achievement,” communications deputy minister Obed Bapela said in a press briefing held in Midrand, outside Johannesburg, on 29 June. Bapela was joined by executives from the four network operators.
8ta, the country’s new operator, has registered 100% of its users. Cell C has registered 99% of its contract customers and 92% of its prepaid users, while MTN has roped in 98% contract and 96% prepaid users. Vodacom has registered 98.4% contract and 93.6% prepaid customers.
Registration outlets will be open until late on 30 June day to meet the expected 11th hour demand. Registration requires an identity document and proof of residence, all physically presented by the person registering.
While users will still be able to register after being cut off on 30 June, they are urged to do so beforehand to avoid being switched off. “Don’t wait to be disconnected, but if you are just go to your service provider,” Bapela said.
Customers should check with their operators if they are registered, just in case they doubt their details were not captured properly.
Operators lead the campaign
The networks have invested heavily in the registration campaign, which has also created temporary employment for youngsters across the country. 8ta said it employed at least 20 000 people to register users.
Bapela conceded that the government’s efforts to promote the Rica campaign were rather late, and commended the operators for their efforts. His department embarked on a drive in mid-June to get people to register.
“It’s been a real expensive process (and) a huge campaign,” said Lars Reichelt, Cell C’s CEO.
The operators stood to lose customers if they didn’t get them to register. Loss of revenue will now be avoided as millions of users have responded to the call to register.
Other data sim cards, such those used in traffic lights and broadband connection, also need to be registered.
It will be evident on 1 July if all municipalities have registered their traffic lights’ sim cards. Bapela noted failure to comply before deadline may result in traffic chaos.
Necessary crime-prevention law
South Africa’s parliament passed Rica in 2009 as a crime-prevention measure.
“It’s a necessary law for South Africa,” Bapela said. “We want to ensure that every citizen communicates in a safe environment, and that they are protected.”
Rica will make it harder for people to buy a connection card for once-off use.
Bapela noted that in the recent past criminals involved in heists would just buy a card, “after using it they’d throw it in the river or in the bush (to) make it difficult for police to investigate”.
“The number of heists has decreased, so it (Rica) does have an impact,” said Bapela.
“It’s quite necessary to register all sim cards in South Africa, so that we know which sim belongs to whom,” he added.
South Africans have not voiced any objections to Rica.
The Department of Communications and the operators have assured the public that information captured through Rica will not be used for any other reason besides preventing crime. The data, which is confidential, will only be accessed for legal reasons, and no other.
Even the South African police will have to provide credible reasons to access the mobile phone data. Bapela said police would only access the data via permission gained from a magistrate.
Operators have invested heavily in ensuring the data is secured in accordance with the law. “We’ve got huge security at MTN around the data,” said Karel Pienaar, the group’s MD.
Vodacom executive Vuyani Jarana said: “We have a very clear protocol that the information remains highly protected.”
8ta’s Stephen Blewett said they store the data in state-of-the-art technology, through which “no one can gain access”.