Government ushers in fresh laws to halt illegal phone usage

21 Apr 2009

The Tanzanian government has reportedly unveiled plans to introduce new legislation to help local law enforcement agencies curb the illegal usage of mobile phones in the country. According to local newspaper This Day, the government hopes to use various state-of-the-art technologies to track down people using cellphones for criminal purposes. Professor Peter Msolla, the Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, revealed the government will soon table a bill in the National Assembly for the establishment of a Central Equipment Identification Register (CEIR). Once adopted, mobile phone users in the country will be required to register for a SIM card and provide documents confirming their identity before they will be allowed to buy it. As it stands, SIM cards are widely distributed across the country very cheaply – some cellcos even offering free SIMs to encourage take-up – making it difficult for the police and security agencies to fight crime.

However, critics of the scheme note that the recent influx of cheap handsets from Asia will hamper the state’s efforts to crack down on mobile phone related crime. The so-called ‘Chinese handsets’ do not always carry the mandatory International Mobile Equipment Identification (IMEI) number, making them untraceable in the event of a crime having been committed.