A former councillor at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has lashed out at South Africa’s Sim card registration legislation, Rica, saying it has severely impacted ordinary consumers while having little or no impact on crime.
William Stucke, who left Icasa last year and who now heads up his own ICT consultancy, said at an industry event in Johannesburg on Thursday that Rica — which requires people wanting to connect to telecommunications operators’ networks to provide their ID and proof of address — has had “zero” effect on reducing organised crime.
“As network operators, you are obliged to provide the facility for the Office of Interception to intercept any of your customers’ [communication] … and keep logging information for a period of three to five years, which can be examined at a later date,” Stucke said. “This was all justified on the grounds of fighting crime and terrorism.”
But he said the unintended consequence has been a spike in identity theft as a result of the fact that tens of millions of South Africans have had to supply their IDs and other personally identifying information, usually at a retail point of sale such as a supermarket tillpoint.
“As with most ill-conceived laws, the effect on Joe Public is serious. The effect on organised crime is zero,” Stucke said. “You can go to Hillbrow and find a man on the street who will sell you 50 pre-Rica’d Sims. What’s the point [of the legislation]? None whatsoever.”
He admitted that law-enforcement authorities have used the law for interception of criminal activity, but said they have provided no details of how it has been used or even how often.
“Is the whole concept of having that kind of legislation valid? I don’t think it is,” Stucke said.
His remarks echo the views of former Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig, who said before the legislation was introduced that it would have a negative impact on both consumers and the industry while helping little in the fight against crime.
Laws similar to Rica in other countries have become a bigger regulatory risk factor for telecoms operators after MTN was last year fined a record-breaking US$5,2bn by Nigerian authorities for failing to disconnect 5m unregistered Sim cards.
That fine, which was later reduce to a still record-setting $3,9bn, continues to be the subject of negotiations between MTN and the Nigerian authorities. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media