‘No more Rica extensions’

2011-02-09 13:17

Cellphone users who do not register before the end of June this year, in terms of the Regulation of Interception of Communication Act (Rica) will be cut off, MPs heard on today.

Justice department deputy director-general for legislation, Deon Rudman, told Parliament’s security and constitutional development select committee that the deadline for registration would not be extended again.

The original deadline for users – including both contract and pre-paid customers of various service providers – to register was December 31 last year. Cabinet later agreed to an extension until June 30.

Rica is aimed at curbing organising crime, by allowing law enforcement agencies to intercept cellular phone communications if there is a reasonable suspicion of crime.

Besides cellphones, the legislation also applies to telemetry SIM cards in tracking devices, as well as data SIM cards in smartphones, laptops and modems.

To register, users need to show their ID document and proof of address to their service provider before the cut-off date.

Rudman said service providers had had ample time to get all their customers registered.

“They have had ample opportunity to make sure everybody is registered. They should ensure, come June 30, that 99 percent of people, especially those in rural areas, are registered,” he said.

Three service providers – Cell C, MTN and Vodacom – appeared before the committee today to brief members on the progress they have made towards ensuring all their customers are registered.

Only Vodacom provided a detailed breakdown. The company’s executive director for legal and regulatory matters, Nkateko Nyoka, said 3.7 million of its 25.5 million customer base still needed to register.

The bulk of those not registered – over 3.1 million – were prepaid customers, many of them living in rural areas, he said.

Cell C regulatory compliance specialist Phila Mtya told the committee that 81% of the company’s customers had registered, but declined to provide absolute figures, saying such information could not be divulged in an open meeting.

MTN declined to present either percentages or absolute figures, saying it was a listed company and currently trading in “a closed period in compliance with the rules of the JSE”.

This would be lifted on March 9, but before that date it was not permitted, in terms of JSE rules, to “disclose any price-sensitive information to a select group”.

Following objections from some members, who said they could not gauge the service providers’ progress toward Rica compliance without seeing such figures, both Cell C and MTN agreed to make these available to committee chairperson Tjheta Mofokeng.

Nyoka made it clear Vodacom intended to comply with the Rica deadline.

“If it comes to a point we will have to comply with the law and disconnect those people,” he said.

All three service providers said their main challenge had been registering people in rural areas. 

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