Over the past few years, there has been an exodus of DStv subscribers moving their accounts from Zimbabwe to South Africa. Thanks to Zumanomics, the South African Rand has been falling against the United States Dollar over that past five years to the current low of US$1:R14 or thereabouts depending on which side of the bed the South African President has woken up on. The deteriorating Rand means Zimbabwean folks have a higher purchasing power in Rands and it becomes cheaper to pay for the same basket of goods and services in South Africa as opposed to Zimbabwe. This has been coupled by a worsening economic situation in Zimbabwe characterised by high unemployment, liquidity crunch and unstable political environment which has left many people unable to afford DStv and simply closing their accounts indefinitely.
Multichoice Africa problem
The falling rand not only is a problem for Multichoice Zimbabwe but also for Naspers, the investment company owning Multichoice worldwide operations. As it is a public secret; most of TV content on DStv is generated in USA followed by Europe and a weakening Rand means their USD revenue base is decreasing. At the same time licences for channels on DStv have annually been increasing meaning a dwindling margin for Multichoice. Compounded to that; Nigeria which is the second largest market after South Africa is facing a recession due to continually depressed oil prices and the Naira has also fallen more than 40% against the dollar since June 2016. This comes at a time when pricing has become sensitive and the cost simply cannot be passed onto the consumer. In light of this, subscriptions will most likely go up again in 2017 to balance out their margins and cushion themselves from any further negative movements to the Rand and Naira against the US dollar.
Unfortunately in Zimbabwe there is no other alternative satellite tv. The state owned broadcaster is by all measures a pain to watch and has old war documentaries on repeat in these politically sensitive times for well…obvious reasons. I have heard in some corridors of business that the reason why we do not have any alternative is because the only satellite tv broadcast licence holder makes it a mission to see that no competition enters the space. With the 2018 general elections round the corner, it highly likely the government’s digitalisation project will be delayed so as to have access to ZBC (free-to-air) subscribers for campaigning purposes. I struggle to see a post-digitalisation ZBC convincing a single paid subscriber to buy their set top boxes to watch their “wonderful” programming. But then again, who knows? We wait to be shocked!
So without any alternative, Zimbabweans opt to have their DStv accounts registered in South Africa where they enjoy discounts of up to 40% on all bouquets. There are many unofficial DStv agents who assist citizens with the process of registering their accounts in South Africa for a fee of about $15. These agents also offer the service of paying your account on your behalf using their connections in South Africa. Once registered you can have your friend or relative in South Africa pay for you and enjoy your favourite DStv bouquet for much less than what you would have paid here. However, this bypass of controls contravenes some copyright laws, but since we are not experts in that field, I will leave it at just that.
Downside of Subscribing in South Africa
There are a few hic-ups that you will experience from subscribing in South Africa. Should you need to change anything on your account you will need to call the South African call center directly. And don’t forget, you need to use your “fake” account credentials that you were provided by your “agent” when he registered you. Another downside is some of these so called agents have disappeared with clients’ monies and some underpay leaving the subscriber without service half-way down the month. Multichoice has often threatened to disconnect those illegally connected to South Africa and there have been some casualties especially in Bulawayo area. Until then, be entertained!