Telecommunications companies in Uganda Saturday switched off unregistered and unverified sim cards per the mandate of the regulator, Uganda Communications Commission [UCC].
The minister for ICT & National Guidance, Hon Frank Tumwebaze, insisted on the deadline for switching off unverified sim cards by Friday midnight even after parliament presided over by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had passed a motion blocking the disconnection of sim cards the previous day.
Tumwebaze said as a national security measure, government embarked on an exercise of ensuring that every SIM card of an individual gets validated and verified for purposes of ensuring secure and safer communications.
He explained that it was the only way to regulate crime citing criminals who use several sim cards to commit cybercrimes.
Enraged by this development, Kadaga on Friday evening directed the House Rules Committee to summon Tumwebaze for contempt of Parliament.
Parliament has suggested that the activity be extended for at least a year so that everyone gets the chance to register for national identity cards.
“We cannot accept total disregard for peoples’ voices,” Kadaga said late Friday evening.
“This is a high level of arrogance,” she lashed out, adding, “On Tuesday I will send this matter to the Rules Committee so that they can invite him [Tumwebaze] to explain himself to the house.”
But President Yoweri Museveni too was in support of the deadline saying deactivating unverified sim cards was “a critical step in the fight against crime.”
“I support efforts of authorities to register SIM cards & urge all to adhere to the deadline,” Museveni said in a tweet on his official handle Friday evening.
Unverified sim cards switched off
Many Ugandans stayed awake last night waiting for their sim cards to be disconnected.
When nothing happened by midnight, they started posting on social media platforms ‘chest-thumping’ and belittling UCC for issuing “empty threats”.
However, by Saturday morning, most of them could not place or receive calls as voice communications on their unverified sim cards had been deactivated.
It was MTN Uganda that laboured to once more to appeal to its customers to do the necessary.
“Dear Customer, if your MTN SIM card has been de-activated, please dial *197*3# and enter your National ID Number, followed by Given Name and Surname as they appear on your National ID,” MTN reached out in a social media message.
“For Foreigners, please visit the nearest MTN service centre with your Passport or Refugee ID (issued by the Office of the Prime Minister). Please note: Your SIM card will only be re-activated after NIRA verification.”
On a lighter note, however, the mobile money service will not be tampered with as promised by minister Tumwebaze.