extend there. I am incapable of keeping time.

My position on SIM registration up until Thursday evening was that the deadline should not be extended at all.

Firstly because it sounds irritatingly as if someone is squeezing into a church or school pew, having come in late, and loudly whispering, “Extend there!” to those of us who came in early.

The arguments for extending the deadline are many and even appear to make sense but they are also silly – especially the one that goes, “Many people haven’t registered.”

Now that we have extended the date, supposing the very same people still don’t register? What then? A one-month extension? Followed by a three-week one? Till we are at five minute extensions?

The matter even made it to Page One of the national newspapers proving that our failure to keep time is truly a national issue.

A couple of months ago, a number of us vented angrily at Maurice Kagimu Kiwanuka, then Uganda’s official Representative to Switzerland, the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and other International Organisations, for embarrassing Uganda by generally being in existence. During the lecture that exposed him to the world, he started off by saying, “For us in Africa time is not an issue…”

He is laughing now.

The concept of ‘African time’ is now a reality with backing rather than sheer idiocy, until Ugandans who can keep time are in charge of our national affairs.

We have had one year (three hundred and sixty five days) within which to register our damn SIM cards, fill out forms and have our photographs taken. Some people – we sensible ones, did so within that period of time – proving that about 14million SIM cards are officially in existence.

I don’t even want to go into the reasons for the extension of the deadlines: Apparently the country would have collapsed into a silent heap if all the SIM cards were not registered; but if the immediate above were true, wouldn’t it stand to reason that people would register their damn phones?!!!

Reasons aside, the concept of “the deadline” has been defeated in Uganda. Some sectors, such as schools and media houses, understand this concept better than others. In school, you must hand in your homework or coursework on time so that it is marked and factored into your performance appraisals at the end of term. Schools have time-tables they stick to both for teaching/instruction and administration. This is when the foundation of keeping time is supposedly built and I honestly thought they were doing a good job till this week.

Media houses understand deadlines because if they don’t put a story in on time the news won’t be read at the top of the hour, or the newspaper won’t hit the street on time, therefore resulting in the news being stale. If this copy of Sunday Vision hit the street on Tuesday you wouldn’t buy it.


Or, apparently, if you have one year within which to register your SIM card, very difficult for the people who own the estimated 10million SIM Cards that had not been registered by March 1, 2013.

So what was the deadline for? What were the planned activities from March 1, 2013 going forward? And the ones after that? Are the security risks also being postponed? Will criminals also extend their evil plans for this time?

I am angry at them, but my anger is not useful. I had two suggestions during the debate over to extend or not to extend: 1) Install an application on all phones of people who haven’t registered their SIM cards, so that every thirty minutes a muscular arm extends out of the phone handset and delivers a hard slap to the left or right hand side of the head of the phone owner or: 2) Compile a list of all the people who register their SIM cards during this extension period and publish it under the banner: “PROPONENTS OF AFRICAN TIME: THE PEOPLE WHO GIVE UGANDA A BAD NAME”.

Option 1) above would be much more effective and beneficial to Uganda, but Option 2) is more feasible.

Somebody, please implement one.

3 thoughts on “extend there. I am incapable of keeping time.

  1. Located within the cultural centres of the global-west this article makes sense; but located within the cultural centres of most African cultures it is dan right insensitive and rudely patronising. Our perceptions of time differ and there is the good and bad in each perception … One perspection may be efficient in the neoliberal capitalist paradigm, where time is considered money, but is so insufficient in the social philosophy of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others’. It also means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. I have sometimes questioned my priorities and the trade offs that I make in the interest of time – not enough time to spend with family and friends, becaus for them ‘there is no time’? Why is the author venting that others are not registered, if he is. I am amongst those who registered last minute for it was so incovenient for me to go out of my way to find the points for the different service providers. Then there was the question of the information each service provider chose to collect – agents of one of the service providers wanted to know such information of whether I was married or not? What does that have to do with establishing ownership of my sim? There are concerns about the custody and utilisation of the information collected in the name of registering sim cards – the impact on our civil liberties, I mean. Many Ugandans do not have ‘valid’ identification cards – such as drivers liscences, passports, etc. – well Ugandans know the hoops you have to jump to get the later; and these are required for registration. It is fascinating how the proponents of time keeping are not necessarily allocating blame to the duty bearers who have not yet answered our burning questions on the whole sim card registration … might it be the case that some are waiting for answers before they register?


  2. There are two arguments in there, Norah, both of them good – the first to do with the perspective of time, and the second to do with the process of SIM registration in Uganda. The first has elements I agree with and am actually ranting, but brings in something different from the deadline issue. I think time is time regardless of one’s perspective. What we choose to do with time, however, may differ and our difference in perspective shows itself well in our approach to things like timelines and deadlines. But once we have chosen to use them we should stick to that choice without excuses. The vent is not just about SIM registration – it’s around EVERYTHING we do without considering the bigger import. Why was this exercise called? What else relied upon it, calling for a deadline? What if the 30% who haven’t registered after one year still don’t? Which leads to the second part of what you say, where I fully agree there is an issue with the conduct of the process.
    But without clarity of purpose on the basics such as time-keeping, one cannot get the more complicated things right.
    That’s why if one failed to learn how to spell one’s name, one wasn’t allowed to advance to higher classes to learn Physics, Chemistry and Literature…


  3. Thanks Simon. Before you blame most of us who are not registered also be mindful of the Telecoms. I registered one old data line and acquired a new one in August 2012 when you would expect or we were told no new SIMS would be activated without registration. I submitted everything required was given a copy of the form as evidence of application. No message or communication from the Telecom. In February 13 about 6 months later, when renewing, the monthly data, i was informed the two lines are not registered. I have sought explanation from customer care and no response. I do not how many other cases are like mine – would you blame sir?


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