A recent report in IT Web Africa has said that MultiChoice South Africa has issued warnings Zimbabweans who subscribe to DStv SA bouquets. The report does not go into detail of the possible repercussions of this apart from quoting MultiChoice (SA) general manager for corporate affairs Caroline Creasy saying, “MultiChoice is aware of this practice and has issued several warnings to the public that this is illegal”.
We are not sure in what form or when these warnings came in but it’s increasingly evident that both MultiChoice Zimbabwe and MultiChoice SA don’t know how to deal with this.
The illegal practice of subscribing to DStv SA bouquets whilst is Zimbabwe has been going for years but increased soon after the Santech encryption of the SABC signal.
Probably the major reason why MultiChoice cannot stop the illegal viewing is because it’s difficult to identify the illegal accounts. Caroline Creasy admitted in the IT Wed Africa report that it’s “impossible to measure” the extent of the problem and I definitely agree with her.
Almost all DStv dealers in Zimbabwe are able to open “SA accounts” remotely from Zimbabwe. The last I checked the fee was $20 to open an account which is set up within 30 minutes. Most dealers just require a copy of a your passport and the cash and you’ll be viewing a DStv SA bouquet of your choice in no time.
Once the account is set up, the dealer will give you your account number, your South African address and your South African phone number. This is the privacy information you will need to give a South African MultiChoice call center agent should you experience problems with your South African MultiChoice account.
Subscriptions are also not an issue. The widespread option is to have a relative down south to pay the subscription. People not so “lucky” to have a relative in SA can always return to their DStv dealer who can organise subscription payments for a $5 fee. They will either use visa or send by bus to their runner or point person in SA to make the payment. I know one DStv dealer who handles close to 50 SA account subscriptions each month.
The machine is well oiled and it’s difficult to see how MultiChoice can effectively deal with it. Apart from the dealers, it’s also difficult to track the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwe’s who go into SA, buy decoders, open SA accounts (you only need a passport, SA address and phone number), pay subscription and return to Zimbabwe to watch SABC.
MultiChoice SA has sometimes been criticised for being soft in this whole issue because of obvious benefits but clearly they also have their work cut out.
The latest report suggests that the Zimbabwean regulators should clampdown on illegal viewing of SABC in Zimbabwe. True, but MultiChoice SA also has moles within that open these SA accounts on behalf of Zimbabweans hundreds of miles across the Limpopo.
So if MultiChoice (Zim and SA) can’t technically do anything about it, what next?
With recent developments in Zimbabwe, there could be more people looking at SA DStv accounts. BOStv and GOtv went off air recently and the thousands of viewers who were on these two products will be looking at other options and it’s rare for a Zimbabwean to snub the prospect of watching shows like Generations or Isidingo again.
Both MultiChoice Zimbabwe and MultiChoice SA have increased subscriptions effective April and exchange rate aside, South African bouquets offer more value for less. For example, Compact SA gives you all SABC channels and 4 sports channels for $27.50 but for $31 the Zimbabwean Compact has no SABC (it can’t have SABC) and Zero sports channels worth note.
True people still need to pay $20 to get that coveted SA account. However, this cost will pay for itself within 6 months through saved subscription fees – $3.50 it’s the compact bouquet.
It’s accurate to say that once Zimbabweans decide to subscribe through SA , they forfeit assistance from MultiChoice Zimbabwe. This means you can’t call MultiChoice Zimbabwe if you lose a signal and need reconnection.
From my experience, the only time people lose a signal is when it rains heavily or when subscriptions are not paid on time. The first happens to everyone so it’s not relevant but if you get disconnected for late payment, you’ll then need to call the DStv SA call center which is quite costly on both your pocket and integrity as you will need to lie that you are in South Africa and give false personal details provided by your dealer.
However, after all has been said and done, we need to understand that each time we choose to subscribe DStv SA, we support the SA economy ahead of ours. Subscriptions paid to MultiChoice SA represent revenue lost to Zimra in income tax and VAT. The more we call the MultiChoice call center in SA, the more they will increase their call center agents to cater for this new demand on their service, again at the expense of our own job creation.
Is this a cost we want to pay just for the sake of better entertainment?