Thousands without e-wallet after SIM card deactivation

LATE REGISTRATION … Zambezi residents at MTC’s Katima Mulilo branch yesterday, where they waited to register their SIM cards. The registration period expired on Sunday. Photos: Lugeretzia Kooper

… Telecom Namibia confirms deactivating 191 598 prepaid cards

Thousands of mobile money clients, including electronic wallet clients, have been blocked from using cellphone banking services, following the failure to register their SIM cards by 31 March.

This comes amid Bankers Association of Namibia chief executive Brian Katjaerua’s warning that the deactivation of SIM cards could disproportionately impact rural communities who rely on electronic wallets for convenient financial transactions.

“A lot of Namibians actually make use of these wallets to send money around. There may be some clients who may not have had time to register their SIM cards and as a result, their online banking platforms will not be working, but those are probably the minority,” he says.

Telecom Namibia yesterday announced the deactivation of 191 598 unregistered prepaid SIM cards effective from 1 April.

“As of 31 March, Telecom Namibia’s records indicated a total of 442 410 active mobile subscribers. Following the deactivation, TN will maintain a base of 250 812 registered prepaid subscribers,” the company’s spokesperson, Nomvula Kambinda, said in a statement.

The latest registration figures released by Ministry of Information and Communication Technology spokesperson Shoki Kandjimi showed that by 29 February, about 70% of cellphone users, approximately 1,6 million have registered their SIM cards, while 30%, approximately 700 000 people, have not registered yet.


He says on average there are about 2,5 million cellphone users in the country.

The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) promised to update registration figures today.

“As of 29 February 2024, Namibia had a total of 2 387 230 active SIM cards. Out of these, 1 687 742 SIM cards have been successfully registered, representing a registration rate of 70,6%,” Kandjimi told Desert Radio last week.

“We are not too happy about that as we thought the numbers would be around 90% by now,” he said.

By 27 December last year, mobile operators indicated that 62,5% of active SIM card users registered.

This translated into over 1 000 491 active subscribers registering since June 2022.

Then information minister Peya Mushelenga last year extended the SIM card registration deadline from 31 December to 31 March.


Meanwhile, Katjaerua says a lot of money is channelled through e-wallets.

“Some people, such as farmers, pay their employees via e-wallets for various reasons, such as the workers not having active bank accounts,” he says.

He says the registration of SIM cards is law, which citizens should comply with.

Banks have been encouraging their clients to register their SIM cards to continue transacting conveniently, Katjaerua says.

“I have seen that the banks also tried to encourage their clients through the media, and that is also the same position of the bankers association. We really need to go out there and comply with the law,” he says.


Katima Mulilo Urban constituency councillor Kennedy Simasiku says he has been imploring MTC to make more registration points available in the region.

“Residents have been travelling to Katima Mulilo and queued in the long queue the whole day only to not be registered. This has led to them going back for good, especially those coming from faraway villages, while others had to sleep at the mobile home to be registered.

“I wrote a letter last December to MTC, raising these issues,” he says.


Kabbe South constituency councillor John Likando says the extension period was supposed to be accompanied by rural mobilisation and awareness campaigns.

“Given the nature of literacy in our rural community, the announcement by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology was just taken as a political statement rather than a real story.

A villager from Impalila Island, Wendy Mulela, says she failed to register her SIM card during the allocated period, because she could not afford transport to town.
Mulela was speaking to The Namibian yesterday, while queuing at MTC’s Katima Mulilo branch, hoping to register her SIM cards.
“Currently, my SIM card is still active, but it keeps giving me a reminder that it’s not registered,” she said.
Another hopeful villager from Bukalo, Kakambi Mushabati, says she gave up registering, because the queues were too long.
“However, today I will try and stand in these queues to get my card registered,” she said yesterday.


Ohangwena governor Sebastian Ndeitunga yesterday said he was not aware of the cut-off date having lapsed.
He said SIM card service providers should be flexible and exercise sensitivity by extending deadlines to allow everyone to register.

Omuntele constituency councillor Sacky Nangula yesterdaysaid many elderly people have been cut off because they do not have the means to travel to the nearest towns.

“The MTC queues were so long, and most of the elderly people could not stand in the queues for long,” he said.
He said 26 points were submitted to MTC for possible mobile registration points.

“Those with resources have managed to register their SIM cards, but the majority of the people could not register in time,” he said.

Nangula said many people in his constituency are now struggling to contact one another.

“Some people could not register online either, because they do not have access to electricity,” he said.

Nehale Lya Mpingana constituency councillor Josef Shilongo yesterday said MTC registration officials did not visit all the villages in the constituency, citing the area is vast with sandy terrain.

“The nearest towns one can go to are Ondangwa, Eenhana and Tsumeb, but not everyone has the means to reach these areas. The MTC registration team that visited our constituency are complaining that the road networks are bad for their vehicles. They also complained of high fuel consumption,” he said.

“Our people really wanted to register their SIM cards, but the registration points are too far, and most people don’t have money to travel to the nearest town,” he said.


Cran spokesperson Mufaro Nesongano yesterday said members of the public have until the end of June to register their SIM cards, however, SIM cards will remain deactivated until registered.

“As from 1 April, any SIM card which has not been registered was unfortunately disconnected – until it is registered,” he said.

Nesongano said people who do not register their SIM cards during the grace period could forfeit their numbers.

“All numbers that are not registered by the end of June will be put back into the pool of SIM cards that any member of the public can purchase,” he said.

Contacted for comment, MTC said they do not have an update on how many SIM cards have been registered.

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