In an interesting twist of events, the government of Malawi has decided to suspend the mandatory SIM card registration process which those in the Southern Afrikan country had to conclude by the end of March 2018 or face penalties or cancellation of services. Malawi's authorities, when addressing the media, cited "state spying" and "long queues" as the two main reasons why they suspended the SIM card registration process.
Malawi had announced the SIM card registration process in June 2017. AT the time, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) explained that it was making SIM card registration mandatory to prevent the use of mobile phones for criminal purposes. This follows the introduction of Malawi's Communications Act No. 34 of 2016.
“Government has taken note of the questions and concerns raised by the general public directly and through their honorable members of Parliament regarding the administrative and technical aspects for implementing this requirement of the law [in registering SIMs],” said Nicholas Dausi, Malawi's Minister of Information, Communication and ICT.
Concerns about the process were also raised by members of parliament, including from opposition parties. The SIM card registration process required that mobile subscribers to provide their full name, gender, date of birth, residential or business address and an identity card number. It is not clear and Dausi also did not shed light what is meant by concerns over state spying. However, regarding long queues, many people in Malawi have complained and some have taken to social media to vent their frustrations over the daily long queues when they go to register their SIM cards to avoid their services being terminated.
Added to this, Dausi did explain that the SIM card registration process in Malawi will resume once all stakeholders involved can agree on the modalities of executing a robust awareness campaign and address some of the concerns.
“Government wishes to assure the public and all stakeholders that it will ensure that this process is expedited taking into account that the law should be respected,” concluded Dausi.