The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Amendment Bill (RICA) was passed by the National Assembly yesterday. We’ve spoken about this law before. It is quite simply one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed by government.
It’s intended purpose is to fight crime by registering every cellphone SIM card in use in the country. That’s at least 30 million cellphones of which I would bet 70% are pre-paid users although I would not be surprised if that percentage is higher. And it needs to be done within a year, which is close to impossible.
Any criminal with two brain cells to rub together will be able to circumvent this law in about 5 minutes. All it takes is a street person with a valid ID book and a bottle of cheap brandy. That of course assumes that said criminal does not have a fake ID in the first place. Meanwhile every other citizen in this country will have to register their phone or risk being cut off.
The terrible thing about this law is that millions of the poor and disadvantaged in South Africa rely on cellular telephones as their primary telecommunications means mainly due to Telkom refusing to service low income and rural areas, in contravention of their licensing agreement (but that’s a whole other story). If they are cut off it just makes their lives increasingly difficult. Who is going to employ you when you don’t have a reliable means of contact?
What’s really going to make the enforcement of this law really fun is that tourists and foreigners will have to register SIM cards in phones they bring into the country and because we use a GSM network a large chunk of European tourists bring their own phones when they visit. What’s better than standing in a half hour line at customs? Why standing in another 30 minute line to register your phone straight afterwards. With the volumes of people expected in 2010 for the World Cup there are going to be some flaring tempers at OR Tambo International Airport.
This law really is stupid and I have a hard time believing it will have any affect on crime. Actually scratch that, I know it will not have any effect.
Thanks to certain government departments being asleep at the wheel the electricity supply in South Africa is on some rather shaky ground till 2011 at the least. Now it seems government may be doing the same again with an even more important resource – water.
The primary policy guiding South Africa’s economic development, Asgisa [the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa], makes no mention of this key restraint to growth, or the need to carefully manage our rainfall catchments and improve the water-use efficiency of industry and agriculture
South Africa is a water scarce country with a long and regular history of drought occurrence (we’re going through one right now), let’s not wake up in 2025, the projected year that demand will outstrip supply with another minister making excuses that they never saw this coming.
Readers of this blog will be familiar with our constant harping on the dire situation of telecommunications in South Africa. After Telkom was semi-privatised and a chunk sold to a consortium including US telco SBC Communications (now AT&T, whose name it took when it acquired it). Telkom was given a 5 year monopoly (which has become a defacto 14 year monopoly at the very least) in exchange for providing telecommunications service to under serviced areas, which they never did.
After Telkom’s legislated 5 year monopoly was up SBC sold their stock for a massive profit, packed their bags and South Africa has been struggling with a complete messed up telecoms industry ever snice.
And that’s probably because the Telecommunications Act which set up our current environment was written with the help of SBC to ensure they made profit before they did the ol’ cut and run.
In an interview with the authors last year, Myers explained that when it became clear that SBC would secure the Telkom stake, “the company temporarily transferred its entire San Antonio [Texas] corporate office legislative team to South Africa to help draft the Telecommunications Act, to make sure the legislation comported with the company’s requirements”.
Myers told Horwitz and Currie that SBC’s strategy was very clear: “Maximise the value of Thintana’s investment during Telkom’s five-year exclusivity period and then exit quickly.”
I can’t help but think the ANC got taken for a complete ride by SBC (and probably then decided to get in on the act when Andile Ngcaba and his Elephant Consortium saw the massive profits Telkom was making) and our lethargic Communication Dept and toothless regulator ICASA have been unable, or unwilling, to do anything about it.
Sometimes even the golden boy of SA politics, Trevor Manuel, is so bound by the rules of obedience to the party that he’s forced to utter some non-sensical mutterings every now and then (we hope). Take his recent statements in parliament over that constant thorn in the government’s side, our northern neighbour Zimbabwe:
“We must encourage Zimbabweans to solve their own problems. That is the most we can do because the decisions have to be carried by Zimbabweans into perpetuity,” Manuel said in a heated exchange in parliament.
“For those who don’t understand, I ask that President Bush recruit them and send them to Iraq,” a visibly angry Manuel said amid heckling from opposition lawmakers.
“Then they will understand what regime change is about.”
Sure the Zimbabweans have to make the change themselves but it’s a bit hard to do so when you’re starving and the army and police seem to be getting all the food. Also the quiet diplomacy tactic is a bit strange when you consider the considerable international support the ANC raised against the Nationalist Apartheid regime.
Manuel – one of Africa’s most experienced and respected finance ministers – said that South Africa would not squander South African taxpayers’ money by bailing out the ailing Zimbabwe economy.
“We can not… decide what kind of economy the Zimbabweans must have. They must get the prices to work, they must drive the changes. We can’t commit financial resources …”
Well if we’re not going to be spending taxpayer money on Zimbabwe I assume we’ll be cutting those Eskom powerlines into Zimbabwe pretty soon? Also I would think my taxes which are spent on social services for the 4000 to 5000 Zimbabweans who jump the border every day might be better spent on SA citizens first.
...on getting married. Just one question comrade, don’t you think the horse drawn carriage was a touch too much bourgeoisie? And it’s going to be a lot harder to criticise those BEE fat cats when your wife’s working for Patrice Motsepe…
And then Foreign Minister Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma will keep digging:
South Africa has blamed Britain for the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe by accusing the United Kingdom of leading a campaign to “strangle” the beleaguered African state’s economy and saying it has a “death wish” against a negotiated settlement that might leave Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF in power.
According to a South African government document circulating among diplomats ahead of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit this week, President Thabo Mbeki will paint an optimistic picture of his efforts to broker an agreement between Mugabe and the Zimbabwean opposition.
“South Africa is a signatory to many UN conventions. We cannot impose a refugee status on people who do not want to be refugees. We will be doing that if we set up a refugee camp… and that will be against the UN regulation,” Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nquakula said in a televised interview.
She described most Zimbabweans who illegally enter the country as “economic migrants” who had no intention of settling but wanted only to buy food.
And pray tell how many ‘asylum seekers’ have applied for visas to SA at our embassy in Harare? Of course why apply at all when the border is wide open anyway.
Fired Deputy Minister of Health Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge is slamming government but big time on the radio during her press conference (in progress live on 567 CapeTalk/Radio 702). This is probably the best example ever of a high level cabinet member coming out so publicly against the President’s office.
Hopefully this is a turning point. The ramifications against Mbeki before the ANC NEC in December could be huge.
The firing of Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge will be remembered as another short-sighted blunder by the Mbeki administration. The pretext for the firing was Madlala-Routledge’s unauthorised trip to an AIDS conference in Spain. Her party left OR Tambo international airport under the (false) assumption that the President’s Office had authorised the trip and when they arrived in Spain and found this was not the case, they headed straight back home. The entire affair cost R161 000.
That’s the pretext. Everyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that she was fired because of the statements she made about government’s AIDS policy while she was acting minister during Health Minister Manto Tshabalal-Msimang’s long illness (and subsequent liver transplant). Let’s just say her views on AIDS treatment (using anti-retrovirals and medical research) clashed with Mbeki and Msimang’s (garlic, beetroot and whatever Thabo found on the internet the previous night).
This is all indicative of the level of paranoia and control that rules Mbeki’s administration. Why does a deputy minister have to get permission from the president’s office to travel overseas officially? And why are other cabinet ministers who have cost South Africa untold billions of Rands in bungled policy and administration allowed to continue in their posts?
Seven black players in the Springbok starting line-up for the 2011 World Cup are not enough, says South African Rugby Union (Saru) Deputy President Mike Stofile.
And the term “black” should not include coloured players, as that could limit the number of opportunities for players of colour.
Stofile was responding to a weekend newspaper report that quoted Saru President Oregan Hoskins as saying that there should be a target of selecting seven black players in the Bok starting team for the next World Cup in 2011.
That Mike Stofile is the the brother of Sports and Recreations Minister Makhenkesi Stofile might not be that big a surprise.
Update: And how’s this for more race based sports madness. At the SA Netball Interprovincial Championships teams must field a team with an exact black to white ratio of 5:2 and if they do not they get docked points. But this also applies if a team has too few whites, such as the team from Zululand which is composed entirely of black players. All their opponents get a 6 point head start. At least they’re applying the rules evenly but it’s still madness!