By Alawi Masare @AMasare

Dodoma. People who will use unregistered mobile phone Sim cards risk a Sh5 million fine or 12 months’ imprisonment or both if Parliament passes a new Bill.

The punishment is prescribed in the proposed amendment of the Electronic and Postal Communications Act, which is expected to be debated in the parliamentary sitting starting today in Dodoma.

The Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill Number Five seeks to make it mandatory for subscribers to have their detachable and built-in Sim cards registered using verified information and documents.

“Any person who knowingly uses an unregistered Sim card or built-in Sim card, or in any manner misuses a Sim card or commits an offence shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not less than Sh5 million or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both,” says the Bill, which seeks the amendment of seven acts.

The Bill went through the relevant parliamentary committee and is to be tabled before the House for a second reading and possible approval during the sitting opening today.

However, the chairperson of Parliament’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, Mr Mohammed Mchengerwa, said yesterday that the punishment could be too harsh for ordinary Tanzanians, the majority of whom live in rural areas and have little understanding of the Sim card registration process.

“Much as we agreed with the government on many aspects, we thought that this particular subsection needs more attention. It could turn out to be unfair punishment for ordinary Tanzanians in rural areas, who may not be aware of the potential dire consequences of using unregistered Sim cards,” he said.

“We are proposing that the fine be reduced to a maximum of Sh3 million or six months’ imprisonment.”

Tanzania is currently conducting biometric registration of all Sim cards, with national identity cards being used as proof of identity.

Considering the fact that not all citizens have been issued with national IDs, the government announced earlier in the year that the registration, which started on May 31, would be extended to December 31.

According to the Bill, service providers, agents and dealers who cause the use of unregistered Sim cards will be liable to a fine not less than Sh10 million or 24 months’ imprisonment or both upon conviction.

If the commission of the offence continues, offenders will be fined Sh750,000 for each day the offence was committed.