MOBILE phone users with unregistered SIM cards have been given a 30-day ultimatum starting next Tuesday to register them, while those registered whose addresses have changed are expected to notify their service providers within 21 days.
The move is in line with provisions of the new Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations, 2013 and those who ignore the directive risk imprisonment.
According to a Government Gazette released yesterday, the regulations were being implemented to safeguard national security.
Service providers or their agents were compelled to report to the police within 24 hours if they suspected that information provided by those registering their SIM cards was false.
"Any customer or person who fails to comply with the regulations is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding six months or to both fine and such imprisonment," the gazette stated.
Service providers were also given 30 days to de-activate unregistered subscribers.
"Any service provider, including an agent, distributor or dealer who contravenes or fails to comply with the requirements issued in terms of the regulations shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine," it said.
Service providers are compelled to record customers' details, including full names, permanent residential address, nationality, gender, subscribers identity number, national identity number or passport number before activating any SIM card.
They are expected to keep the information for at least five years after a customer cancels their contract or the service provider ends the telecommunication network services.
Service providers would be required to produce their subscriber register to the authorities free of charge upon request.
Government said it was also establishing a central subscriber database, the Central Subscriber Information Database, in which all subscribers' information would be stored.
"The creation of this database shall enable the authority to monitor service providers' compliance with the provisions of these regulations and assist with operation of the emergency call services or assisting emergency services, assist law enforcement agencies or safeguarding national security and assist with the provision of mobile based emergency warning systems and authorities to research in the sector."
Government said information captured in the database would be held on a strictly confidential basis and no persons or entities would be allowed access, except authorised personnel.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, which regulates the postal and telecommunications industry, directed recently that all activated prepaid and postpaid SIM cards should be registered as a measure to enhance security and prevent criminal activities that may be carried out using mobile phones.
Registration of SIM cards is not peculiar to Zimbabwe.
In South Africa, there is a government regulation that makes it mandatory for every subscriber to register.
Other countries in Africa, including Kenya, are also implementing the same measures.