By Nelson Wesonga
Kampala — Members of Parliament have arm twisted the Uganda Communications Commission's (UCC) to waive the deadline for banning airtime scratch cards.
The MPs said mobile telecommunications companies should continue selling the cards alongside the electronic airtime recharge.
"I agree with that position," UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi said yesterday during a dialogue between MPs, the ministry of ICT and mobile telecommunication companies at Parliament. "Let the system heal itself," he added.
Earlier, ICT minister Frank Tumwebaze had said he would persuade UCC to reconsider the ban on the scratch cards.
Mr Tumwebaze's commitment followed a barrage of complaints by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, Thomas Tayebwa (Ruhinda North MP) and Paul Akamba (Busiki MP).
"... we have been engaged in skirmishes, either directly or indirectly in relation to the services of that sector and its impact on the population," Ms Kadaga said.
"We had a skirmish over the SIM card registration; Parliament had to come in to make sure the [deadline is extended]. After that, we had a skirmish on [Over The Top] tax but we are handling that. The next is this one where... there are a lot of complaints about lack of access... ," Ms Kadaga added.
Ms Florence Namayanja (Bukoto East MP) said following the ban, which took effect on August 1, communication with her constituents has been affected.
"The number of calls I receive from my constituents after the ban has gone down," Ms Namayanja said.
However, Ms Rose Mutonyi Masaaba (Bubulo West) said it is good fewer constituents are now calling their representatives.
"The better," Ms Mutonyi said.
MTN chief executive officer Wim Vanhelleputte said the company will comply with the 'new' policy.
"If the policy is that we want the market forces to take care of phasing out, then that is what will happen," Mr Vanhelleputte said. "But we are talking about poor illiterate people as the example we are trying to give, they would not be able to go electronic," he added.
Africell chief operations officer Mohamad Ghaddar, Uganda Telecom Limited official Otaremwa Otuhumurize and Airtel Uganda legal and regulatory director Dennis Kakonge said their companies offer their customers both alternatives to load airtime.