According to Business Report of 2 June 2006, cellphone companies in South Africa might spend R300m (about $50m) to implement the Pretoria government's Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica). Not only must the telecommunications providers provide government access to phone calls if criminal activity is suspected, they must also now gather the personal data of some 20 or 30 million prepaid customers. In SA GSM simcards could up to now be bought almost anywhere you turn for R5 or so a shot. This has clearly been immensely useful to the great majority of people who simply want a convenient telephone service (which the government-owned - sorry, semi-privatised) monopoly fixed-line operator has never deemed a high priority. And - what do you know? - some criminals, perhaps even terrorists, have been using telephones! Something must be done.
Never mind the fact that 15m or so South Africans (teenagers, previously and presently very disadvantaged people etc.) do not have the identity documents that they will need to purchase or keep a simcard. Never mind that if the little lady from Letsitele has her handbag stolen at the Ultra City (because those criminals have not been thoughtful enough to call each other on a channel being monitored by the government) she will not be able to buy a cellphone and simcard to phone home because, you see, her ID document was also in the bag and she will wait many weeks for the Department of (Home) Affairs to issue a new one because they too are suddenly very vigilant against the threat of terrorists, foreigners and Zimbabwean political refugees.
What are the smart criminals doing, on the other hand? Parking their (consigliere's) behinds in the Internet café and chatting (encrypted) on Skype, Parlino or Wengo, one would presume. I hope the Zimbabwean dissidents are doing the same.