Pensioners cry foul over high cost of SIM card registration

PANICK-REGISTERING … Zambezi residents yesterday flocked to the MTC branch at Katima Mulilo to register their SIM cards after they were deactivated on 31 March. Photos: Lugeretzia Kooper

Impalila Island-based pensioner Michael Mayumbelo says he has had to spend a hard-earned N$250 per trip hitch-hiking to Katima Mulilo several times in attempts to register his SIM card.

Mayumbelo, like many other Zambezi residents, failed to register his SIM card during the country’s mandatory registration period, as well as the extension period, due to several challenges.

The initial mandatory registration period ran from 1 January to 31 December 2023, and the three-month extension was granted from 1 January to 31 March 2024.

The failure to register during these periods have seen customers’ SIM cards deactivated by mobile communication companies.

Mayumbelo, who spoke to The Namibian yesterday while queing at Katima Mulilo in a final attempt to register his SIM card, said MTC’s failure to provide rural areas with mobile registration points has caused his current predicament.

“Travelling from Impalila Island to Kasika is no cheap trip, as it costs N$250 per trip going and coming. Imagine all the time I have spent travelling here and back without registering my card,” he said.

Margaret Muhinda yesterday said she spent N$500 every second month from her old-age pension to travel to town in an attempt to register – without success.

“We have wasted the little we have on hitch-hiking for nothing in addition to our other expenses,” she said.

Another pensioner, Freda Tungulu, said she has been hitch-hiking back and forth from the village, paying N$90 per trip to register, but went back without registering.

“I am back again today, and that will cost me another N$180 again,” she said.


Meanwhile, more than 30 people whose SIM cards have been deactivated showed up at NamPost’s offices at Aroab in the //Kharas region. NamPost clerk Lola Jahrs said all 30 were MTC customers, as TN Mobile does not operate in the south-eastern part of the region.

She said she applied to have their SIM cards reactivated by MTC, but would only receive feedback from MTC today.

“People are flocking to our offices now that the deactivation is real. As NamPost we can only provide our service of filling in their forms and forwarding them to MTC’s offices.

“However, it’s not a process where deactivation occurs instantly. You have to wait for a response,” Jahrs said.

Former councillor Gertjie Witbooi said residents of Koës and Aroab either had to use NamPost or travel to Keetmanshoop at their own cost to have their SIM cards registered.

Witbooi said MTC conducted an outreach to these areas two years ago when SIM card registration was announced. “There has been no outreaches held by MTC since last year when the official period ended and they announced the extension. People are sitting now without services,” Gertjie said.

Community activist Niklaas Dawson at Gibeon in the Hardap region said MTC conducted an outreach to Gibeon at the onset of the registration period.

“Most of the people at Gibeon utilised that opportunity to go and register,” he said.

Dawson said he did not register during that outreach as MTC wanted to take fingerprints and he refused to cooperate.

“These biometric systems I cannot allow to be fingerprinted. I went to Mariental and registered only with my ID card,” he said.

At Ongwediva hundreds of people flocked to MTC yesterday to register their SIM cards.

Resident Amalia Hangula said: “The queue is moving at a snail’s pace. We are tired and hungry, however, we have no choice but to stand in the queue until we are assisted.”

Rosalia Shilongo, who travelled from Oshinyadhila village, blames herself for failing to register her SIM card in time, saying that she thought it was a prank.

“For some reason I did not think our SIM cards would be suspended,” she said.


A group of people who gathered at the MTC mobile home in Independence Avenue in Windhoek yesterday said their SIM cards were deactivated despite being registered.

Kirsti Mukwiilongo said she had registered two of her SIM cards at the same mobile home, but to her surprise, one was deactivated.
“I registered my SIM cards in December, yet I have been receiving messages from MTC, warning that my cards will be suspended,” she said.

Laina Nekanjo yesterday said she also spent all day waiting in line to get her SIM card registered.

According to her, she registered her SIM card two weeks ago, but received a notification that her card had been deactivated on Monday.


MTC yesterday suspended approximately 323 326 subscribers who failed to meet the 31 March deadline.

Earlier this week Telecom Namibia also switched off about 200 000 SIM cards.

MTC spokesperson Erasmus Nekundi encouraged those whose SIM cards have been cut off to visit their nearest mobile homes to complete the SIM registration process. He said MTC has done everything possible to cater for Namibians in all areas.

He said challenges included the geographical vastness of the country, as well as other socio-economic conditions.

“We would have welcomed an extended time to be able to register all our customers. The reality of the matter is that MTC must follow the directive to suspend numbers as required by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran),” Nekundi said.

He then revealed that as of 31 March 2024, they were able to register 1 613 893 SIM cards, while 323 236 remain unregistered.

He said they have granted a 90-day grace period from 1 April to 1 July 2024 for those who were unable to register.

“Should the grace period lapse and no action be taken by the SIM card owner, the number will be deactivated or permanently deleted from the network,” he said.

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