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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Is RICA (sim card law) a good thing?

As South Africans, we don't always keep up with new laws and new amendments to the constitution. For those who do not know, the Constitution of South Africa has been amended 16 times already. Have you read any of our Acts or Bills?

The next question would be: Have you heard of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Act 70 of 2002 (RICA)? Well, the fundamentals of this law is that each SIM card, whether that card is for prepaid, contract or data use, must be registered against your name and identification. To find out more about this act without having to actually read the act, you can read Cell Phone SIM Cards and RICA.

The purpose of RICA, which came into effect on 1 July 2009, is "to regulate the interception of certain communications, the monitoring of certain signals and radio frequency spectrums and the provision of certain communication-related information." The two troubling words here are "interception" and "monitoring."

The apparent reason for this act is to assist in fighting crime. Criminals use cell phones to commit crime, and so the government wants to be able to listen into cell phone connections in order to find out where such crimes will be committed. So, the theory behind this act is that criminals will no longer be able to use cell phones to assist in their dastardly crimes. The question is how the government will be able to know whose conversations to listen to. Will they have a suspicion about a person, and then listen into his conversations? How does this help if by the time of the suspicion, the incriminating conversation is already finished, and the planning of the crime already concluded? That is too late! What if the suspicion is wrong, and a person's privacy has been violated?

The effectiveness of this law can only be guaranteed if all calls are monitored and certain keywords are used to intercept specific conversations. However, that will be a blanket violation of all citizens' privacy rights. In fact, I wonder how the government will ensure that our constitutional rights aren't violated in this regard. Section 14 of the constitution, dealing with privacy, says the following:

14. Privacy
Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have ­
a. their person or home searched;
b. their property searched;
c. their possessions seized; or
d. the privacy of their communications infringed.

Any law, including RICA, is subservient to the constitution, therefore, if RICA violates point 'd' then this law will have to be amended or even scrapped.

Having said all this, how effective will this law be? The Abortion Nepotism and Corruption party, ANC, has a very sorry track record when it comes to fighting crime. In fact, it does not seem like they are serious about fighting crime at all. The fact that the police is ridiculously under-funded, and in many places they do not even have enough vehicles for fighting crime points to the government's flippant attitude towards the crime problem in this country. Also, the fact that it has become so much more difficult to continue owning personal firearms, never mind purchasing new firearms, perhaps points to a more sinister reason for disarming law abiding citizens! Citizens without the capability of actually defending themselves against gun-wileding criminals are simply open targets for criminals. The reality of the situation is that criminals will not bother registering their weapons, since they are criminals, and as a result no law will stop them from having weapons.

We already have enough laws against crime. These laws are not applied! A law that is not enforced is no law at all! Laws have meaning when they enforced. If our crime laws were actually enforced, silly laws like RICA would not be needed! In fact, based on what we already know about South African law enforcement, my guess is that RICA will amopunt to nothing. Most probably, RICA will get challenged in the Constitutional Court sooner or later.

Lastly, I do not trust this government at all They have proven to be unreliable in how they treat its own citizens. They ignored the voice of the people with regards to abortion, pornography and same-sex marriage, and legalized them all. The people overwhelmingly stood against these heinous evils by a great majority, yet the governnment legalized them anyhow. The ANC cannot be trusted, and with regards RICA, and the technology at hand, our constitutional privacy will soon come to an end!

Intercepting your calls daily!
coming to a cell phone near you on 1 January 2011!

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