Are RICA and FICA effective?

Who would not be in favour of these regulations? Nobody except of course the criminal element. The reality is much more mundane. If the measures were extremely effective with 97.5% compliance both in the accuracy of capture or the system not being bypassed, I would classify these measure as being ineffectual. The (purposely) incorrectly recorded or unrecorded instances would allow all manner of miscreants and nere-do-wells to flaunt the system with impunity. The only complaint individuals will be the law-abiding majority. This undermines the noble intention of the legislation. Why do I assert this and what can be done to make these measures effective?

Despite being introduced with great fanfare to curb corruption, in both instances I was churlishly cynical regarding their efficacy. Without both rigorous enforcement and incorruptible systems, only the non-criminal element would endure the burden of compliance. At the margin, it would allow the apprehension of the in-astute criminal to be trapped but a seasoned criminal such as Radovan Krejcir would never comply.

So what is the point of even attempting to implement such a system?

My first impression on hearing that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had hit MTN with a fine of N1.04 trillion equating to around R70 billion for failing to deactivate unregistered SIM cards by its regulatory deadline, was that this was yet another bulls-eyes whereby African governments shoot themselves in their proverbial feet.

Standard SIM Card Sizes

In this case, the facts indicate otherwise. While the quantum of the fine is ridiculous, the principle is superb.

With crime being rampant and the use of a cell phone in its commission being a common denominator, in 2008 the Nigerian government introduced the requirement to RICA cellphones in Nigeria. Like the problem that South Africa experiences regarding Proof of Residence, so did the Nigerians. Their solution was to incorporate a biometric requirement.

This is sensible suggestion and South Africa should follow Nigeria’s lead in this regard.


Apart from the issue regarding Proof of Residence, how effective is the RICA system in South Africa itself. The first time that I became cognisant that the RICA regulations were meaningless was when Janine required a new SIM Card. The maid graciously offered to purchase her one at the squatter camp in which she lives.

Luzette duly informed Janine that the SIM Cards sold in the Townships and Squatter Camps were all pre-RICAed.

With the MTN imbroglio becoming news worthy, 702 Talk Radio had a talk show dealing with this issue generally and with the efficacy of RICA in South Africa specfically. Apparently SIM Cards sold in these areas are pre-RICAed in bulk against one person’s ID book and residential address.

This confirmed what I knew already. RICA-ing one’s cellphone is a charade and an utter waste of time. What are the chances that notorious criminals such as Radovan Krejčíř have a properly RICA-ed cellphone?

cellphone surveillance

Highly unlikely.

If so, what is the point of even implementing a RICA system?

Now let us take a look at whether FICA is more effective than RICA.

First let me provide my personal experience. In my case, I have been staying at my current address for the past 25 years. The previous owner of the house was a German who had built it some 20 years prior to that. That means that I can vouch for the occupiers of this property for the past 45 years.


Suddenly when the requirement to FICA one’s accounts came into operation, I started receiving all manner of accounts for a Mr Mahlangu. Amongst them were Jet, Edgars and even a HP Account all bearing my address. I dutifully contacted all these institutions in an effort to get the mail diverted. As they all were under the impression that I was intent on defrauding their institution, none would comply with this request unless I appeared in person at their offices.

Of course I refused and merely took to destroying all the invoices and correspondence that I received.

There can only be one reason why the unknown Mr Mahlangu went to all the effort to make my house his residential address: He was using it for FICA-ing purposes.
The Standard Bank logo is displayed at a branch in Rosebank,

The second part of the FICA-ing requirement is the Proof of Identity. This is slightly more taxing to achieve but judging by all the major bank fraud cases that are reported, in all cases the copy of the Identity Document was fraudulent.

Take the case reported last week where R 30 000 was illegally withdrawn from a bank account. The copy of the FICA-ed ID bore the picture of a black male whereas the holder of the account was a white male.

Clearly an inside job!


Of the two systems, I suspect that the FICA system is more fool proof as the Financial Institutions have a vested interest in ensuring proper compliance. Certain additional measure could strengthen this system.

Amongst these would be the following:

  • Allowing visibility of one’s ID Book and Proof of Residence that the bank has on record. In addition, if the Account Holder were notified by sms and email whenever these were updated that would serve as a deterrent for the Bank Staff from tampering with these documents
  • Recording the name and employee number of the employee who made the change and include this with the email
  • Introduce biometric identification of both the staff member and the customer during all stages of the process and all procedures


I also contend that unless the Government intends the RICA system to remain ineffective, a similar system needs to be introduced as regards RICA.

Without these changes, RICA is a waste of time whereas FICA in its current form does serve as a deterrent for minor reprobates but will not deter the serious criminal.


RICA: The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) is a law that makes it compulsory for everyone in South Africa to register their cellphone number.

FICA: South Africa has implemented a law that is designed to combat money laundering, which is the abuse of financial systems in order to hide and/or disguise the proceeds of crime. This law is known as the Financial Intelligence centre Act 28 of 2001, also referred to as FICA.



Leave a Comment.