Lack of robust regulations worrying

SIM card registrations under spotlight
Data has shown that 60% of Namibians do not feel government is entitled to the recording and retention of consumers' telecommunications data.
Iréne-Mari van der Walt
"We regularly discuss SIM registration, but no one talks about how interception will be done or the consequences of the misuse of interception," lawyer Appolos Shimakeleni said during a panel discussion hosted by the Grotius law firm at the University of Namibia (Unam).

According to Shimakeleni, those found guilty of interception abuse will face a severe sentence of 10 years in prison or a fine of N$100 000.

He believes the only sticking point in the SIM card registration issue is that the "guardians" of the communications law have not yet been determined.

"It can make it very difficult to determine whether someone has abused the system or not," he said.

Inadequate protections

Frederico Links, a researcher affiliated with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), believes that there are several issues that still threaten to turn the public against SIM card registrations.

"A lot of complaints relate to the amount of information they have to share when their SIM cards are registered. It's clear that people are uncomfortable and realise that something is happening in terms of their privacy," he said during the discussion.

Links supported his argument with data from an Afrobarometer survey that showed that 60% of Namibians did not feel the government was entitled to the recording and retention of consumers' telecommunications data.

"I don't think the public is sufficiently assured that their privacy will be protected," he said.

He agreed with Shimakeleni's view that the laws and regulations on interception abuse are insufficient.

"We don't have a data and online privacy protection law. The problems are a lack of adequate oversight, adequate accountability, and transparency.

"I think we would all feel more comfortable if we trusted that there would be enough oversight and accountability and an appropriate amount of transparency in place, but there isn't," he said.

For your safety

Patience Kanalelo, the head of corporate legal services at MTC maintained that SIM card registration has the public interest at heart.

"For us as a company, it makes sense. It's a way to curb crime. These days there's a lot of fraud being committed due to the fact that mobile phones are now used for financial purposes with banking apps, but there's nothing we can do if the SIM cards are not registered," she said.

Inspector Joseph Abed, a Namibian police legal officer, cited rumours that defence minister Frans Kapofi was defrauded of N$200 000 as an example of the utility of SIM registration.

"Mr Kapofi says he is a victim, and the alleged fraudster also says he is a victim. It is for this reason that we support this initiative. It will help us complete our investigations faster," he said.