MTC responds to SIM registration issues

Iréne-Mari van der Walt
The registration of SIM cards has raised numerous questions among Namibians regarding the interception of their personal information as well as digital safety and security.

Frederico Links, a researcher attached to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), also expressed his concern about, amongst others, deliberate interruptions in communication.

“If a group of people registers a protest - which is their democratic right - then their communication can be blocked. We have already seen this in several African countries,” Links recently told our sister publication, Republikein.

However, MTC's spokesperson, Erasmus Nekundi, denied these allegations.

“Of course, the capacity to temporarily shut down a cell tower exists, but it only exists for the maintenance of infrastructure. It’s standard procedure if you provide telecommunications services, but if you can't deliver the service, you have no place in the industry. We didn't intentionally create the capacity for it, it's just how the system works. We have no interest in intentionally blocking communications,” he said.

The possibility of ex parte applications being submitted to the court has also come under scrutiny. This is a unilateral application where the applicant is the only party before the court.

Windhoek-based lawyer Milton Engelbrecht believes that this is the logical way in which these applications will be brought before the court if an accused party can tamper with evidence.

“If you know they are going to intercept your cell phone records, it may be possible for you to delete such records so that they cannot be brought before the court,” he explained.

‘Impossible’

Nekundi said that what Engelbrecht is concerned about is not possible. “The records go directly to MTC's system. So even if it is removed from a mobile phone's call list, it is still on our system and our consumers do not have access to it.”

The director of the Legal Assistance Centre, Toni Hancox, says the reasons for ex parte applications must first be brought before the court for the court to decide whether the application should be allowed or set aside.

Nekundi says MTC will not share any personal information until the court has issued an order.

Although the communications law that will mandate the registration of SIM cards provides for urgent applications to be addressed directly to MTC, Nekundi maintains that MTC will only respond to a legal order from the High Court.

He also responded to the training and orientation of staff who will handle the personal information.

“Our risk department will handle such cases in close cooperation with our legal department to ensure that we manage these cases in the right way.”