Holding OpenView decoders makes you liable to arrest. Why do Zimbabweans still do it?

Leonard Sengere Avatar
OpenView decoders blocking

I think in some crazy way, entertainment is a human right. Whilst I have the superhero skill of being able to sit in the dark, doing nothing and thinking about even less happily, I still appreciate a good book, an intense thriller or an experimental album. 

Once you have watched a series like Yellowstone and realise there’s more where it came from, TV becomes a part of your life. Most born-free Zimbabweans were raised on TV and literally cannot function without plopping down in front of a box for at least a few hours a day.

In a cruel twist, local Zimbabwean TV kinda sucks. Not kinda, it really sucks. The national broadcaster is not willing to pay for quality content and that’s just one of the reasons why ZBC TV is literal torture. 

In the last few years the airwaves have been opened up and a few other players have been given licences to broadcast. The first of 6 new licencees, 3ktv, went live earlier this year and it’s not quite the home run some expected. 

Viewers see similarities between 3ktv and ZBC TV and that’s not a good thing. Some viewers say that’s not a fair comparison. They find 3ktv to be much better than ZBC TV. 

That’s neither here nor there though because very few people have the special antennas needed to watch this 3ktv. Meaning most Zimbabweans will need to access 3ktv content through DStv. So, if you want some free content in Zimbabwe you are still pretty much limited to ZBC TV.

So, DStv then?

For TV hungry Zimbabweans, ZBC won’t do. As a result, pay tv has been popular and DStv has been the go to. Options like AzamTv recently entered the satellite pay tv market.

DStv is worlds apart from the lone ZBC TV option. However, from my experience and judging by what other DStv current and ex customers say, it’s not all peaches and cream in the Multichoice world. There is the issue of the infamous reruns that make the service feel like a swindle.

The major problem with DStv though is the cost though. The Zimbabwean economy has been tough to live in since the 90s. Sustained tough economic conditions have left 83% of urban households struggling to buy the food they need for their families. 

These urbanites are the ones with access to an erratic supply of electricity via the power grid. So, it is no wonder that most of these TV hungry Zimbos would find even the US$8 DStv lite option out of reach.

Better free content at any cost

That’s where SABC and etv come in. The South Africans have it good. Their state broadcaster is decent and their soapies are popular here in Zimbabwe as a result. I’m not a soapy guy but I think Muvhango, Generations, Scandal etc are (or were) a big deal.

Only problem is SABC and eMedia channels are not licenced for viewing in Zimbabwe.

So Zimbabweans have three options; 

i. be content with ZBC TV, 

ii. pay for DStv or streaming services that require a stable internet connection. Few can afford this.

iii. Break the law and get SABC and eMedia channels

Some TV hungry Zimbos for whom options i and ii are nonstarters choose option iii. I’m not here to condone or condemn, just here to say this is what’s happening. 

Calls for SABC to encrypt their signals

SABC channels were once available on free-to-air decoders. One only needed a Wiztech or similar decoder and they were set. 

That changed in 2013 when SABC finally encrypted their signal. Overnight, Wiztech decoders became paperweights.

SABC was under pressure from other content providers in the region, including national broadcasters, to encrypt their signal. 

The SABC channels are just good enough for most to not need anything else. So they were winning the battle in regions they were not authorised to operate in.

That encryption meant Zimbabweans now had to break the law to access SABC channels for free like they used to. 

Then came OpenView

You know how Zimbabwe’s digital migration has taken longer than we expected. Well, there were challenges with the same process in South Africa. 

OpenView was created in response to the slow progress that was being made in digitising. So, it offers the SABC channels for free and one only needs the decoder to enjoy. 

The company behind OpenView is sister company to eMedia and so eMedia channels like eMovies were also added to the decoder, making it even more compelling.

That was all the Zimbabweans needed – a decoder that could decrypt the scrambled SABC signals. Free to air decoders had lost their appeal when SABC ceased to be free-to-air and became free to view.

Free to air channels are not encrypted whilst free to view channels do not carry any subscription fee too but are encrypted to limit coverage to areas where the decoders are available.  

Zimbabwe is close enough to South Africa that the satellite signals that carry SABC to the South Africans reach us too. They can concentrate their signal to South Africa (spot beaming) but we will still get those signals. 

So, the free to view OpenView decoder was the blessing Zimbos needed.

A tainted blessing: OpenView Decoder Holders “Liable To Arrest And Prosecution”

I’ll repeat, it is illegal to use the OpenView decoder in Zimbabwe. 

The Zimbabwe Republic Police have been on raids recently, trying to curb OpenView decoder smuggling rings. The Herald reports that eleven were arrested and dozens of decoders seized in the last 2 weeks.

They say eleven outlets were raided and 81 decoders were seized. In addition 1094 serial numbers of already sold decoders were found, meaning the 1094 households using those decoders are about to watch them turn to nothing more than door stoppers.

Apparently this police sting is happening across SADC. So, expect more busts to be made and so if you have an OpenView decoder just know that it could be switched off at any time. Unless somehow serial number records are not recovered when the guy you bought from is busted.

Your decoder might survive the apocalypse but the COO of OpenView chillingly reminds you that, “you are engaging in illegal, criminal activity that makes you liable to arrest and prosecution.”

Of course we expect OpenView to support these raids. They don’t want to fall afoul of regulators in SADC who could pressure the South African government to cripple them or force them to invest in expensive technologies to limit their coverage or maybe instate a subscription model.

OpenView COO on you using their decoders

We commend the Zimbabwe police on their detective work in breaking the smuggling ring and making the arrests.

We are working with law enforcement in several SADC countries to share information about the illegal trade in our decoders.

We look forward to more major busts and more arrests being made soon.

Anyone purchasing an OpenView decoder in Zimbabwe is robbing the country of customs duties.

They can expect no after-sales service. Also, Zimbabwe’s TV professionals suffer when viewers watch foreign content instead of homemade Zimbabwean shows.

Several national and international laws are being broken if you use pirate decoders.

You will get no customer support, they can be switched off at any time, and you are engaging in illegal, criminal activity that makes you liable to arrest and prosecution.

OpenView COO Antonio Lee

So there you have it. You are robbing Zimra of customs duties and so crippling the advancement of Zimbabwe.

You are killing the local video content producers. Instead watch ZBC TV and 3ktv to support your brethren.

To top it off, you are a criminal and could face your day in court for these transgressions. 

Bad you. Go to your room and think about what you are doing.

Gulf in quality

This whole struggle shows just how better SABC is than ZBC. I dare you to try selling a decoder that carries our national broadcaster as the main draw in South Africa. You would be xenophobia’d by whoever you tried to sell that to. ZBC TV barely has a market in Zimbabwe, let alone any other country.

This gulf in quality incentivises those in the ZBC market to seek the better, illegal for them, product. People would not be living with decoders they knew could be switched off without notice at any time if our local channels were decent.



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  1. Jinx

    I think in some crazy way, entertainment is a human right.”

    I thought l was the only one with such a view, cheers mate.
    I gobble three novels and at least fifteen episodes of a hour long series. Entertainment is definitely a need to me.

    1. Jinx

      Per week

  2. Openview

    Mine was switched off but l managed to reactivate it again.Dstv you are not getting my dollar

  3. 123kid

    This whole struggle shows just how better SABC is than ZBC. I dare you to try selling a decoder that carries our national broadcaster as the main draw in South Africa. You would xenophobia’d by whoever you tried to sell that to 😂😂😂

  4. free

    SA is so corrupt some folks are selling DSTV and electricity at ridiculously low prices eg

    I’m opening All DStv channels including showmax
    12 months R700 once offer
    6 months R400 once offer

  5. The kid

    The funny think is even the cops themselves are watching open view HD 😁

  6. ☢️

    Good read this article

  7. Abel Cain

    Nice article but with a lot of grammatical errors.
    Your staff needs a grammar checker but we will support you guys for news such as this.

  8. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    The question is, what act are they using to determine that one has committed a crime. Once upon at time, ZRP once said it didn’t have a mandate to enforce international copyright violations / piracy. Which is why folks could “Jack Sparrow” with no consequences, but if you sold a Roki CD you’d be arrested. Those arrested should seriously consider getting legal counsel, instead of just pleading guilty. Nonetheless, supposing such a law does exist, I don’t think possession of a decoder is a crime (in the context of those selling them) because they haven’t pirated anything. It’s like arresting Liquid because their routers are used to illegally download movies / porn.

  9. QTM

    I believe broadcasting in another country without a license is the offence. Their signal should not be reaching Zim. So instead of eMedia trying to bust decoders in Zim, they shld try to find solutions to limit their signal to SA. The Zim gvt should first put eMedia to task on that.

    1. Geralt of Rivea

      How is that possible with satellite transmission?

  10. Anonymous

    It is impossible they cant limit openview Zimbabwe & South Africa are too close

    1. Anonymous

      As long the broadcasting machines are not in zim there is nothing wrong,if it is wrong then internet must be out too

      1. ano

        True talk.
        I can still access eMedia contents via internet.
        All zrp and fake emedia announcements are Fake.

  11. The Empress

    ZBC should be only watched by the RICH, and the religious who are suffering a crisis of faith.
    Let me explain.
    ZBC will make you develop a high blood pressure condition. This will be through the VERY low quality of the locally produced programmes, the ham-fisted propoganda the thinly veiled contempt showed to you by your spouse and children. Because they have been shunned at school for not knowing what was shown on Etv over the weekend and because your spouse is no longer able to get their daily dose of Indian soaps and Muvhango and now their only hobby is focus on your failings as a parent and spouse. Coupled with the fact that since high blood pressure is a life long condition it will require medication daily and this medication is only available guaranteed to be available at pharmacies if you want to buy it using forex. And over time the money spent on medication will add up to quite a significant amount. All because you wanted to obey the law and didn’t just buy a new decoder when the old one was cut off.
    Preacher’s when they talk to members of their congregation who are suffering from a crisis of faith by telling them to watch ZBC and nothing else for a whole week and afterwards tell them that HELL is exactly like that. And some even say hell is not actually as bad as ZBC

  12. Cable Guy

    This is a difficult one to solve

  13. Gor

    HaZBC inobhowa inongoburitsa mnangagwa mutsvangwa nezanu pf vanoacter nechirungu futi

  14. Vodooo

    Foools you can’t give intertaiment to your pole now you are arresting them that’s nonsense

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