SIM card arrests improper: Chamisa

Threats by government and the Postal Telecommunications Regulatory Services to imprison subscribers who fail to register their lines are against the rules of the International Telecommunications Union, says MDC-T shadow minister for information, Nelson Chamisa.

MDC-T shadow minister for information, Nelson Chamisa
MDC-T shadow minister for information, Nelson Chamisa

POTRAZ has threatened to arrest and imprison mobile phone subscribers who fail to register their SIM cards and provide updated residential addresses before the end of this month.

Government plans to compile a subscriber database and monitor all mobile phone conversations under the pretext of “safeguarding national security”.

Chamisa, the former minister of Information Communication Technology, said the threats were misguided and against ITU regulations. Any migration to a new regime of policies and technological advancement was a gradual process and people should be encouraged to register their SIM cards not threatened with jail sentences, he said. “This is all fascism,” he said.

The threats have been received with anger by subscribers, many of whom told The Zimbabwean that those who fail to register their lines should simply be disconnected.

“The threats of imprisonment are rather draconian. The powers that be should just deactivate unregistered SIM cards,” said Mavis Guyo of Harare.

Theresa Khumalo of Glenview said the SIM card registration exercise was in bad faith, since it would be used by state spies to invade people’s privacy. “If the exercise was well intentioned there would not be any reason for government to establish a Central Subscriber Information database,” she said.

Richard Ngorima of Norton said: “Other countries register SIM cards for noble reasons, but in Zimbabwe it looks as though the exercise is meant to further erode people’s almost depleted rights.”

Human rights lawyer Tarisai Mutisi said imprisoning subscribers instead of pursuing service providers would be unfortunate. “If service providers cannot be made accountable for their subscribers, then something will be wrong,” said Mutisi.

In South Africa the regulating authority RICA ensures that an unregistered SIM card remains deactivated until the registration requirements are met. Before RICA came into being, people in South Africa were given a deadline to register their new lines, failure to do so would result in deactivation of the SIM cards.

Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Webster Shamu, could not be reached for comment as his mobile number went un-answered. Telecel Zimbabwe and NetOne said they recently disconnected over 100,000 unregistered lines each.

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