On 1 July 2009, the RICA law has been implemented in South Africa. What is RICA you ask? Its the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act). This requires everyone that has an active cell phone number or purchases a new Prepaid Starter Pack to register their SIM cards.
All current and new contract, top-up and prepaid customers are required to register their SIM cards. Subscribers who have activated their cellphone numbers before the 1st of July 2009 have to register their personal details against that cellphone number / SIM card in order to comply.
Subscribers have 18 months to comply with this act. New starter pack customers will be required to register a new SIM card and provide their personal details. New cellphone numbers / SIM cards will only be activated on the cellphone network once the SIM card has been registered.
What is required when registering a SIM card?
When registering a SIM card persons are required to have their cellphone number, full names and surname ID number or passport number handy. The South African Green bar-coded ID document or Temporary ID certificate or Passport will be sufficient to confirm proof of identity.
A document that includes the SIM card holder’s name and residential address (eg. bank statement, municipal rates, cellphone or retail account, existing lease, rental or credit agreement, insurance policy, current TV or motor vehicle license) will be required to confirm proof of residence.
Informal settlement residents will be required to provide an official letter and / or an affidavit from a school, church or retail store where they receive their mail.
When is RICA compliance required?
RICA compliance is required if you own a SIM card. It’s also required if you’re paying a cellphone contract for yourself. RICA compliance is also required if a family member’s cellphone bill is in your name or if you are a parent or guardian of minors using SIM cards.
Compliance is also required if you are transferring a SIM card from another individual’s name into your name (required for contract and prepaid subscribers) and if you port your cellphone number to another network. There is no registration fee, it’s free.
Before you start screaming “Big Brother”, hold on and think about this for a second. Yes, it’s not nice to know that some cell phone company has your personal details on file just because you own a cell phone or a SIM card. Yes, it does truly sounds like Big Brother is watching. But, we live in South Africa, not in a first world country with a low crime rate.
We do have problems with crime in this country and criminals were abusing the system in order to have a free-reign in South Africa. This might change if everyone is RICA compliant. The way persons sell 2nd hand phones via classifieds publications could probably change significantly as well.
Under the old law criminals could purchase as many SIM cards as they liked without providing an address for registration. The SAPS were not always keen to investigate a case further if a prepaid cell number was involved since no address was kept on file. That might change in the near future. The whole idea of making it harder for criminals to operate in South Africa sounds like a good one to me.
But like with most good ideas in South Africa, the question remains whether this will be properly enforced or not. A few years ago fines were introduced in South Africa for persons talking on their cellphones whilst driving. I still see plenty motorists using their cell phones whilst zipping through traffic though. Only time will tell if RICA is going to be a detergent for crime.
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