‘Threatening to deactivate SIM cards will not work’

Immanuel Nashinge

Various political parties and organisations have joined the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) to plead for a lengthy extension of the deadline for SIM card registrations.

The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) and Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) are also opposing the disconnection of cellphone numbers after the 31 December deadline.

The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology on Friday said although the law allows that the registration period be extended for three months, all unregistered SIM cards would be disconnected after 31 December.

‘NO EXTENSION’

However, the information and communication technology executive director has confirmed that there would be no extension of the registration period.

After the deadline, users would be able to still register for a period of three months, but their numbers will be disconnected until they do.

Customers who do not register their SIM cards within three months would permanently lose their numbers.

Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) legal advisor Stanley Kavetu confirmed this on Friday.

‘WHY THE RUSH?’

IPC national spokesperson Immanuel Nashinge yesterday said: “These threats to citizens of deactivating SIM cards will not work. Just extend the period and allow people to register easily and with time. What’s the rush for?”
He said disconnecting people’s SIM cards would infringe on their rights.

“How can you talk about the fourth Industrial Revolution, but you don’t want your people to have access to information?” Nashinge asked.

He said the registration process must be made simple, easy and accessible – also to those in rural areas.

According to figures provided by Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) on Friday, only 45% of its SIM card users have so far registered with the company.

Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary general Ephraim Nekongo on Thursday sent information minister Peya Mushelenga a letter requesting the ministry to allow a SIM card registration period extension of 12 months.

In his letter, Nekongo said parastatal service providers greatly contribute to state revenue, and deactivating SIM cards would push them into insolvency.

He added that the deactivation of unregistered SIM cards would have a negative impact on the country’s economy too.

“The majority of people are struggling to get to the current identity registration points,” he said.

Nekongo said mobile telecommunication companies should deploy their services in all 121 constituencies of the country.

Supporting Nekongo’s call yesterday, RDP president Mike Kavekotora said: “People are not reluctant, but there are not enough registration points. I see no harm in that [an extension].”

Kavekotora said the ministry, Cran, MTC and Telecom Namibia (TN) should also ensure everyone is reached and given the chance to register.

“A number of people, especially in remote areas, will miss out because they are not informed properly. Some do not even know anything about this,” he said.

Kavekotora requested service providers to therefore extend registration points to remote villages.

PDM member of parliament Maximalliant Katjimune says he has also asked for the deadline to be extended, but this was to no avail.

Katjumine in September said the deadline should be extended due to a lack of awareness.

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, he said disconnecting people is a violation of their right to access to information.

“A terrible job was done by the ministry, MTC, TN and Cran in the dissemination of information to the mass citizenry,” he said.

“The only logical conclusion is that the ministry must extend the deadline,” Katjimune said.

SIM DISCONNECTION

Audrin Mathe, the executive director of information and communication technology, on Friday said SIM card registration will not be extended, and unregistered SIM cards would indeed be disconnected for three months.

He said this during a media conference at the government’s information centre.

Speaking at the same conference, MTC’s head of corporate legal services, Patience Kanalelo, said only 45% of subscribers countrywide have successfully registered their SIM cards.

“MTC has employed staff at all its branches to help curb the challenges of service delivery. We are also introducing online registration,” she said.

She said people whose SIM cards are deactivated would, among others, not receive any bank notifications.

“However, individuals whose SIM cards are deactivated will be able to register during the three months to redeem their respective cellphone numbers, otherwise deactivated numbers will be issued to new users,” she said.

Cran launched the national SIM registration consumer awareness campaign in June 2022.

The campaign was in anticipation of the mandatory SIM card registration which started in January this year in line with the provisions of Section 77 of the Communications Act and ancillary regulations.

SIM card registration is a national initiative aimed at facilitating the investigation of crimes committed with the aid of mobile devices.

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