Outspoken Rumphi East member of Parliament (MP) Kamlepo Kalua (People’s Party-PP) stood up in Parliament to raise the issue of the mandatory SIM card registration exercise, asking Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi if he could be arrested for refusing to register his SIM card.
The mandatory SIM card registration is provided for under Section 92 of the Communications Act which Parliament passed in 2016.
But Kalua asked: “Section 5 of the constitution provides that any law or laws that are inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution, to the extent of such inconsistency, that law or laws are invalid. Now, if I do not want to register what will happen? If I quote that section of the Constitution, would you arrest me?”
Kalua also retaliated that that government has rolled out a “spy machine” and that SIM card registration is a ploy by government to listen into people’s private telephone conversations, check SMS and monitor internet activity in real time using the ‘spy machine’ at Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra).
He asked the minister to “come out clear” on the spying fears.
“Can you come out clean that this is not another way of spying on innocent Malawians? I would like the Minister of Information and Communication Technology to come out clean on that because this is against the spirit of the constitution of our republic,” said Kalua.
The minister said the government is within the confines of the constitution as Parliament passed the law on SIM cards registration.
“Government is not going to do anything that will be ultra vires or above what the constitution says,” Dausi said.
He added: “I am not a lawyer, I am just a lay person, but I know because I heard the judgement from the Supreme Court that gave a right to MACRA with the service providers to do the registration and that is why I have the strength to drive on to say that it will not infringe personal privacy.”
Dausi said “coming out clearly” there is no ‘spy’ machine “but it is a speculation, an allegation, or an opinion. Nevertheless, since it is a democracy we accept even though opinions can be mere fallacies.”
Kasungu South East MP Khumbidze Chiponda (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) also asked the ministers that opposition members were arrested for treason based on a WhatsApp message and wanted to find out if the registration of SIM cards will not lead to trumped up charges “especially this time when we are nearing the 2019 general elections.”
Chiponda also wanted to know if the registration can be done online.
As regards to online registration, Dausi said it is a “good suggestion” which he will “explore and discuss with the network service providers on how best, whether it is possible to register online”, promising to update the House on that.
However, Kalua stood again on a point of order, asking the minister to answer whether he can be arrested if he refuses to register his SIM card.
Dausi responded: “We are a constitutional democracy and we are a country that thrives on rule of law; you do not just arrest somebody. However, it is a requirement and that if you do not register then your number will be rendered unusable at the end of the day, you not are able to access the network. Therefore, you better register.”
The minister further persuaded Kalua to go to his constituency in Mlowe, Chiweta and “Kulakula mukawaphalire wanthu [tell the people]” on the importance of registering the SIM cards.
Meanwhile, Dausi announced that the registration exercise has been suspended following a public outcry that the time frame was too short and that the public had not been well-informed on why it was necessary to register their SIM cards.
Dausi told the House that government has listened to people’s concerns regarding the SIM registration exercise, adding there are several factors to be addressed such as civic education, privacy and mobility of customers.
“ MPs expressed concern that there is need for further sensitisation and consideration on the period on how people will manage to register. Listening to the concerns, I would like to announce that we have suspended the Sim card registration process, until necessary remedial measures are taken,” he said.
Both TNM and Airtel, the leading mobile phone network providers in the country, say they are yet to be informed officially of the suspension.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :