Govt yet to tell operators of SIM registration suspension

The government is yet to inform mobile phone operators of its decision to suspend the mandatory SIM card registration exercise that Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi announced in Parliament on Tuesday.

When Nation Online conducted spot-checks on Tuesday, people were seen queueing for the SIM registration at both TNM and Airtel offices in the country’s cities.

Both TNM and Airtel, the leading mobile phone network providers in the country, say they are yet to be informed officially of the suspension.

In an interview, TNM senior manager-public relations Limbani Nsapato said until the government gives the official communication of the announcement, the company will continue with the exercise.

“We were told to do the exercise by Macra [Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority] so when they communicate I can have the stand of the company but as it is, we are still continuing with the exercise,” he said.

The suspension follows a public outcry that the time frame was too short and that the public had not been well-informed on why it was necessary to register their SIM cards.

Earlier this week, some members of Parliament also expressed concern that people in remote areas would have to travel long distances to access mobile phone companies that were conducting the registration exercise.

Announcing the suspension, Dausi told the House that government has listened to people’s concerns regarding the SIM registration exercise, adding there are several factors to be addressed such as civic education, privacy and mobility of customers.

He said: “Yesterday, I presented a ministerial statement regarding SIM card registration. MPs expressed concern that there is need for further sensitisation and consideration on the period on how people will manage to register. Listening to the concerns, I would like to announce that we have suspended the Sim card registration process, until necessary remedial measures are taken.”

In an interview after the announcement, Dausi stressed that there was no proper civic education and no consideration of distances that people in remote areas have to cover to register their SIM cards.

The mandatory SIM card registration is provided for under Section 92 of the Communications Act which Parliament passed in 2016.

Mzimba Solora MP Jacob Hara (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) welcomed the suspension, saying that the registration process needed to be extended.

“Honestly the reasons were good, to me they could have just extended the process but this also gives questions of what are they were really up to. But anyway, if civic education is what is required, then fine and good.”

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