Parliamentary Legal Affairs committee (headed by MP Maxwell Thyolela) in conjunction with the Media & ICT committee (headed by MP Sam Kawale) during a joint press conference held at Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) in Blantyre says the decision arrived towards the fulfillment of the legal requirement as stipulated in the Communications Act No. 34 of 2016.
LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Malawi government says all unregistered mobile phone SIM card will be deactivated by the service provider and also liable to a fine of MK1 million or if in default face five years in jail.
This comes as the deadline for the exercise is September 30, 2018.
Thyolela said; “Section 92 of the Act requires that any person who uses or owns or intends to use a SIM card or generic number for voice telephony services must have the SIM card or generic number registered by a phone company or with an authorized distributor, agent or dealer of the phone company.
“Section 94 of the Act makes it an offence for any person to use an unregistered SIM card or generic number. The punishment for this offence is K5 million and imprisonment for 5 years. It is therefore very important that every subscriber must register his number or SIM card to be on the right side of the law.
He added, “We urge all Malawians with a SIM card to register before the deadline [of September 30] in order to avoid disconnection and further to avoid committing an offence under the Act. MACRA is just implementing its mandate and we expect all phone operators and every subscriber to comply with the law.
“As a Committee we strongly urge MACRA to punish operators that will fail to comply with the deactivation deadline of 1st October.”
Thyolela further said that from last week MACRA learnt about the failed registration by some Airtel customers who had gone through the process already and urge Airtel to work on their system so that people should not be repeating the process.
“SIM card registration is an international practice which is aimed at protecting phone users from cyber criminals who use unregistered SIM cards to trick and swindle people. Those that have traveled outside Malawi can attest to this because it is mandatory in most countries for one to register a SIM card upon acquisition.
“With unregistered SIM cards, intimidators find it easy to bully their victims, issue death threats because they know they will destroy the SIM card and never be traced thereafter. This is happening in Malawi and the police have a number of reported cases on this matter,” he said.
On his part, Kawale said from October 1, new subscribers shall be asked to register first with the operators so that the SIM card is linked first with the owner before it is handed out.
“We are aware that some people have not registered despite awareness by MACRA as well as the operators themselves. For one to register, they are asked to produce one of the following identity documents: national identity card, driver’s licence, passport, refugee identity card, asylum seeker identity card and voter registration card.
“There is no need for people to fear anything because this is a normal exercise that is aimed at protecting phone users. We as members of parliament found it necessary to pass it into law considering the criminal activities that were on the rise on the market,” Kawale said.
Operators have also provided codes for customers to verify registration. Airtel customers are advised to dial *122# while those for TNM should dial *277#.