South Africa’s Department of Communications (DoC) has broken its silence regarding the success of the country’s controversial Regulation of Interception of Communications and Communication-Related Information Act (RICA). The deadline for users to register their SIM cards passed on Thursday 30 June at midnight. Following the expiration of the RICA deadline, the DoC reported that Cell C had registered 99.99% of post-paid customers and 97% of prepaid subscribers, whilst MTN had signed up 99.5% of its contract customers and 97% of its prepaid subscribers. Meanwhile, Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, had registered 98.98% of contract customers and 95.12% of prepaid subscribers. 8ta, Telkom South Africa’s new mobile unit – which launched in October 2010 – has been exempted from the announcement; the cellco initiated a mandatory RICA sign-up procedure from launch, meaning that 100% of its subscriber base is registered.
The DoC’s official press statement read: ‘The government would like to thank all South Africans for heeding the call to have their SIM cards registered by the deadline of 30 June 2011, as per the Regulation of Interception and Communication-Related Information Act (RICA). The need for South Africans to [adhere to] RICA is part of our efforts to ensure that we promote an increase in mobile and data usage, whilst at the same time guarding against the abuse of our telecommunications infrastructure in planning and executing crime’.
Meanwhile, the DoC issued a stern warning to any individuals attempting to contravene the RICA process, commenting: ‘It would seem that in some instances persons have bought large quantities of SIM cards which are ‘RICA’d in their own names. These individuals then sell these SIM cards without complying with section 40(5) of the RICA. These persons, in doing so, commit an offence and can and will be prosecuted. They undermine the legislation and jeopardise its aim and objects. The SIM cards in question can be traced back to them and they will have to face the consequences of their actions. It should be kept in mind that the RICA Act, like all other legislation, is susceptible to undermining by unscrupulous individuals. The only remedy to ensure compliance with the law in general is to impose penalties for any contravention thereof. The RICA does just that. Criminal sanctions are embodied in the RICA to deal with instances that have been reported in the media. The law will take its course and prosecutions will surely ensue’.