South Africans who do not have their Sim cards registered by the end of the day on Thursday will have their cellphone numbers deactivated.
Rica is the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, which came into effect on 1 July 2009 and requires the details of all telecommunication users to be registered.
The legislation aims to assist law enforcement agencies in tracking criminals using telecommunications services for illegal activities.
Tiyani Rikhotso, spokesperson for the communications ministry, likened SA’s need to implement Rica to that of India, where telecommunications services were intercepted in order to decipher threats by terrorists to bomb locations during this year’s Cricket World Cup.
Mobile companies Cell C, MTN and Vodacom say they have registered more than 90% of their customers. An estimated 2,7m South Africans will be disconnected from their cellphone networks on Friday.
Telkom has reportedly said that all 8ta customers had complied with Rica requirements.
Engineering News reported on Wednesday that mobile operators had spent more than R500m on the Rica process, to ensure that subscribers were registered before Friday’s deadline.
Karin Fourie, public and media relations manager at Cell C, said it was too soon to determine the possible financial impact of the cut-off. However, “there will be many last minute registrations. Customers who missed the deadline will want to be reconnected … and many customers might use this opportunity to join our network,” she said.
Rikhotso said cellphone companies and the government had embarked on extensive campaigns to try to reach as many South Africans as possible, with Rica stations at cellphone and other retail stores, spaza shops and in taxi ranks.
It costs nothing to register a Sim card to comply with Rica, but registrants are required produce an identity document and proof of residence.
Customers who do not have a permanent residence are expected to provide a written letter from their landlord. Registrants in rural areas may also present a letter from a school, church or shop near to where they live or receive post. An affidavit with a police station stamp will also be accepted.
Eddie Moyce, a customer service executive at MTN, said that the database in which the Rica information is stored is secure and can only be accessed through a subpoena, thus ensuring customers’ privacy.
Those who miss the deadline will have six months to reactivate their numbers, which will take up to 24 hours after registering through the Rica process.
However, failure to register within six months could result in customers losing their cellphone numbers permanently. — Ayanda Sitole, Mail & Guardian