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Every SA website must promote the govt portal on Covid-19, and cell number transfers banned

  • Every website with a domain name that ends in .za – from government portals to private blogs – must now link to the government’s main Covid-19 page on its front page.
  • And while the novel coronavirus state of disaster is in place, you can’t change cellphone network providers without losing your phone number.
  • That is apparently to hinder scammers while the country focuses on fighting the disease.

This article has been updated with a link to the relevant Government Gazette below.

As of Thursday, every website with a domain name that ends in .za – including every company website that uses the .co.za suffix, every organisation in .org.za, and every academic institution in .ac.za – must link to the South African government’s Covid-19 portal at sacoronavirus.co.za.

That link must be “visible”, and must be on the front page of the website, according to regulations gazetted by communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

The site, formally known as the Covid-19 South African Online Portal, contains information about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, plus statistics on its spread in SA and related government press releases.

According to the ZA Domain Name Authority, the body that oversees the assignment of names within the .za space, there are currently 1.3 million registered names that end in .za, though not all of those have active associated websites.

The regulations do not say what will happen to websites that do not comply, and do not specify a deadline by when websites must be updated, though the rules are immediately in force.

The requirement for a link to the website is part of interventions that also say that broadcasters must spread “public information related to the national effort to combat the spread of Covid-19 in all local languages including sign language”.

If you change network service providers now, your phone number won’t go with you.

The new regulations also suspend number portability, the process that allows a cellphone number to be transferred between operators. That means that changing from one cellphone network service provider to another will not be possible without being issued a new telephone number, for as long as the Covid-19 state of disaster is in place.

Neither the regulations nor a press release from Ndabeni-Abrahams’ ministry said why number transfers had been forbidden. But in a press release earlier in the week, the minister said her department did not want scammers to take advantage of South Africans during a time of disaster.

Porting a number from one network to another is a vital step in several types of fraud, including stealing internet banking credentials and soliciting payments from the friends of victims.