By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- Today, Wednesday 31 January 2024 is the deadline for the SIM cards registration.

The subscribers of both mobile telecommunications service providers- Vodacom Lesotho (VCL) and Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) are expected to register their sim cards failing which they will be deactivated.

SIM card registration exercise is done in accordance with the Communications (Subscriber Identity Module Registration) Regulations, 2021 that requires that all sim cards be registered.

Today is the cut-off date of the extended registration grace period for those who were unable to register by June 23, 2023.

“The Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) reminds the public that the Communications (Subscriber Identity Module Registration) Regulations 2021 which were published in a Government Gazette on the 24th December, 2021 and came into operation on the 24th June, 2022 reached their deadline on Friday 23rd June, 2023.

However, the public shall also recall that a few weeks before the deadline, there was a public outcry alluding to the possibility of unclean data being captured. To address this uproar the Authority resolved not to deactivate all unregistered SIM cards on the deadline date, as it started the process of cleaning the data,” reads the LCA’s statement.

The process of cleaning data, according to LCA- the telecommunications regulator is complete and calls for subscribers to register with their service providers.

It continues, “The process is now complete and the Authority has satisfied itself that all subscribers that have registered are duly captured. The last day of registration of all SIM cards is now announced the 31st January, 2024 following which all unregistered SIM cards will be deactivated.

“All members of the public are urged to ensure that they are registered to avoid the suspension of their telecommunication services”.

These regulations demand the service provider to hold the subscriber information “on a strictly confidential basis” and that it should not be accessed by any person or entity except by the order of the Court of law.

These Regulations were in some quarters criticized for possible violation of some of the provisions of the Constitution especially those that deal with fundamental human rights.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho, an advocacy and lobby group that strives for media freedom, independence, plurality and free speech had previously called for the rescission of these Regulations citing some irregularities.

MISA Lesotho argued that these Regulations contravene Section 14 of the Constitution as well as Section 11. “Every person shall be entitled to, and l, except with his own consent, shall not be hindered in his enjoyment of his freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference, whether the communication be to the generally or to any person or class of persons, and freedom from interference with his correspondence,” reads Section 14 of the Constitution.

Section 11 reads thus: “Everyone has the right to privacy, including the confidentiality of their communications and protection of their personal information”.

In an exclusive interview with this publication last year in August, LCA Chief Executive Officer Nizam Goolam said when reacting to questions around sim cards registration.

“The concept of providing details is not new, for all other services whether you want to connect electricity, water, opening a bank account and even in the driver’s license those details are requested and there is nothing different from the Sim-card Registration.

“We are just saying provide your identification that is how you should look at it. We need to understand that we are mobbing into the digital economy and what you used to do with your physical bank card you are now doing with your cell phone and it means that your cellphone is now becoming your identity and your means of transacting.

“So, in order to protect those users, even their service providers, they do ask for your phone numbers. It’s not strange, it’s what happens, so we need to give them assurance that the number that you are giving is indeed the correct number.”

According to Communications (Subscriber Identity Module Registration) Regulations, 2021 the service provider who fails to capture, register, deregister, deactivate or keep the details of any subscriber as stipulated in the Regulations is liable to a penalty upon conviction of M5 000.00.