Tourists, businessmen and other travellers that might want to use their GSM handsets to roam around South Africa will henceforth face some intrusive bureaucracy before they can call home to enthuse about the delights of Cape Town or send pictures of the elephants and lions they see on safari.
A new piece of legislation, the "Regulation of Interception of Communication Amendment Bill" now making its stately way through the South African parliament requires visitors to the country to go to a local services provider in person to register their name, address, passport number and a whole raft of other personal details before being allowed the privilege of using the GSM network.
The new law will also require anyone who buys a mobile phone in South Africa to prove their identity and place of residence.
So, in future, if you head off on holiday and want to use your own phone and roaming tariff you'll first have to get yourself off to the shops, armed of course with a wodge of documentation to prove who you are, get in a queue, get to the counter, fill in the forms, register your presence and then, hopefully, you'll actually be allowed to make a call.
In many parts of the world mobile phone users have to register some personal information when they buy a handset or sign-on with a service provider but the South African authorities are taking the whole process further than ever and people are beginning to ask "why?".
Some say it is because of the administration's growing paranoia and tendency to centralisation being reflected in the creation of databases that, whilst keeping general tabs on everybody in the country with a mobilke handset, could also be used to identify and pinpoint those who might hold political views inimical to those of the ANC.
Others take less of a sinister conspiracy stance and opine that it is no more than a money-grabbing commercial ploy whereby visitors on short visits will, though sheer inertia, opt not to head downtown to register at a shop, but instead will, by default, be "forced" into paying the extremely expensive roaming fees that help some South African mobile operators add a little lustre to their bottom lines.
Gabriel Solomon, the director of Government and Regulatory affairs at the GSM Association says the proposed new rules as "unprecedented and impractical".?
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