All cell phones stolen or lost or even damaged in Tanzania will be blacklisted after the implementation of the Electronic and Postal Communication Act (EPOCA)  passed and assented-to this year by Jakaya Kikwete.

“The Country is finalising the setting up of the regulations that will go with this law that will ensure that the phones are blacklisted by the mobile operators when reported”, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (Tcra), Director Information Society and Information Technologies, Mr James Kilaba said.

The act, EPOCA as it is famously called, was passed by Tanzanians Parliament on January 29, 2010 and assented to by President Jakaya Kikwete on March 20, 2010.  The act is expected to regulate electronic and postal communication services.

According to Mr Kilaba, the Act also called for the regulator to have a white list of mobile handsets to ensure only accredited mobile phones operate in any networks in Tanzania. There would also be a grey list which will contain IMEI, International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), numbers that are neither Black nor White lists, so it will  prevent service to the mobile phone, but may nudge the authority to  initiate an act of monitoring and tracking of the mobile.

The regulations and guidelines are expected to come into effect in the next two weeks.  All cellular phone networks in the country will be connected to the CEIR which is a database of the IMEI numbers of blacklisted handsets and shared such that a stolen phone can’t be reused in another network in Tanzania but regional coperation is expected.

Mr Kilaba says that plans are underway among all the five East African countries to link them in a regional EIR.  Tanzania is also in talks with the Republic of Ireland to connect it to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) to go beyond East Africa.

It would just be interesting to note how the government will deal with reprogramming of cellphones and regional cooperation on this.

TCRA Senior Legal Officer, Mr Joannes Karungura say that unlike previous laws, the current act has a number of penalties to offenders.

Some of the penalties are for; transfer or disposal of Simcard(s) without being authorized, where a fine of Tsh 7m/- or imprisonment of 2 years or both would be instituted and stealing of a Simcard or telephone, one would be fined not exceeding 500,000/- or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three(3)months.