Tanzania: Glimmer of Hope for SIM Card Holders

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(file photo).

Dar es Salaam/Kigoma — "We will switch off all unlisted Sim cards; but we will see how to accommodate those who are waiting for their identity card numbers to register biometrically." That was the anxiously-awaited clarification issued by the deputy minister for Works, Transport and Communication, Atashasta Nditiye -- thus giving a glimmer of hope that the government may favourably reconsidermobile telephony subscribers who are yet to receive their national identity card or numbers thereof.

Mr Nditiye - who spoke in an internal meeting of the ruling party CCM members in Kigoma yesterday - said subscribers who are already registered by the National Identification Authority (Nida), but who have not yet received the requisite ID cards or numbers will be reconsidered after today.

"The government will handle the process in all its wisdom. This is especially for the citizens who are waiting for their ID cards or their respective numbers. We will see how best to handle this," he said.

For Tanzanians who are not in the Nida database, the deputy minister said there would be no excuse at all, because their absence from the database means they did not register for the national identity card. In other words: their national identity is unknown.

Citizens with Nida national IDs - but who did not bother to register their mobile phone chips biometrically - will also be not safe from the axe that will see to unlisted lines being blocked from use.

The government is pushing for biometric listing of all mobile telephony lines in efforts to reduce cybercrimes.

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The original registration deadline of December 31 last year was extended by presidential fiat to today, January 20, 2020.

However, up to January 15 this year, only 56 percent of the Sim cards in use had been registered biometrically.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) spokesperson, Semu Mwakyanjala, said only 27.3 million lines had been biometrically listed, representing 56 percent of the targeted 48.7 million Sim cards. This means that some 21.4 million subscribers were still unregistered up until January 15, 2020.

"The deadline is tomorrow (today, January 20th), and we will switch off all unlisted Sim cards," said Mr Mwakyanjala as he urged subscribers to continue listing their liness.

"For those who have not filled in the requisite Nida forms, let them do so now. Those with the right IDs should continue registering and those who are yet to get their IDs should also continue following up," he said.

TCRA said registration is ongoing. Thousands of Dar es Salaam residents gathered in Mbagala to biometrically register their lines in an event that was attended by the regional commissioner, Mr Paul Makonda.

Mobile phone operators had their representatives at the Zakhiem grounds biometrically registering their customers, while Nida and the Registration Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (Rita) facilitated the issuance of ID numbers and birth certificates respectively.

Mr Makonda said more than seven million people own national ID cards or ID numbers - but they have not yet registered their Sim cards biometrically.

"Those who are yet to register are lazy, and the government will do nothing to help them.

"There will be no further extension of the registration," he said at the rally.

However, residents said the process to get an ID card is overly cumbersome and overly long.

"I came here yesterday (Saturday) at 6.00am for ID registration, and I yet was not successful despite staying until the offices closed at 4pm," said Flora Beautus, a resident of Mombasa who finally got registered yesterday (Sunday) at 12pm.

Reported by Happyness Tesha from Kigoma and Alfred Zacharia, and Kelvin Matandiko in Dar es Salaam

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