Dar es Salaam. The government is seeking to impose limits on the ownership of SIM cards to only one per person, restrictions that are aimed at preventing the use of cards in carrying out criminal activities in the country.
Works, Transport and Communication minister Isaac Kamwelwe told The Citizen in a telephone interview that it was true that the government and the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) had arrived at the decision to restrict possession of sim cards in order to control mobile money thefts.
He said this is after it came to the government’s attention that most of the culprits nabbed conning the public through the mobile money transfer system actually hold anything from six to 30 sim cards issued by just one mobile telephony operator.
“It came as a shock when we realised that the persons who had been arrested for sending short messages (sms) from their mobile ’phones as a way to steal from the recipients actually held more than six – and up to 30 – sim cards. These were issued by one or more mobile telephony operator(s). Therefore, we had no option but to come up with a strategy that would control this,” Mr Kamwelwe explained.
According to the minister, if and when the right legal framework is in place, people will have to demonstrate the need for them to have more than one sim card – even if they are from different mobile telephony operators.
Reached for comment on the developments, Airtel-Tanzania public relations manager Jackson Mmbando said they are yet to receive an official communication from the government on this.
“At the moment, we cannot comment on the matter until we are officially informed, after which we will be in a good position to comment on the decision: its benefits and challenges,” Mr Mmbando stated.
Halotel communications manager Mhina Semwenda virtually echoed what Mr Mmbando had said – adding that any official change(s) from TCRA must be formally communicated to the mobile operators.
“We are awaiting an official statement,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the TCRA consumer consultative and executive secretary, Ms Mary Msuya, applauded the move, saying it was one way of protecting the consumer.
She said that, when the government came up with the idea to register sim cards, registration agents were allowed to register a prospective consumer using ordinary identification cards (ID cards) – although some of the IDs were forged.
However, she noted that – following rampant illegal registrations – the government tightened the registration exercise, requiring a person to have either a voter’s registration card, a driver’s license, a passport or the national ID card which have the holder’s fingerprint mark.
She noted that some people apply for several sim cards which they really don’t need, and don’t use – thus creating a burden for mobile operators who have to pay for them to TCRA…
In any case, she said, there are ‘mobile portability’ arrangements which enable a customer to shift to another mobile telephony operator without necessarily having to change the phone number.
In such a situation, Ms Msuya said, there is no longer the need to have a gazillion sim cards.
On Friday, the social media went viral on the back of a message that was circulating, stating that members of the public would soon no longer be allowed to own more than one sim card without special permission from TCRA.