Bulawayo residents have expressed outrage at the decision by South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to disconnect its channels on free-to-air decoders carrying pirated signals.
Zimbabweans, fed up with poor programming on State broadcaster, ZBC, had resorted to watching the South African channels on Wiztech, Philibao, Fortec Star and Vivid decoders.
As from Monday, local viewers will not have access to SABC 1, 2 and 3 channels.
Viewers complained that they would miss out on entertainment and could not fathom the thought of watching the unpopular ZBC.
Local viewers, who spoke to Southern Eye yesterday, expressed disappointment at the latest development.
“I’m not happy at all. I am so used to watching Generations, now I don’t know what I will do,” Patience Moyo from Romney Park, said.
Unami Nkomo, a Tshabalala resident, described the move as unfair, saying viewers should be free to watch what they wanted.
“I discovered that I couldn’t watch SABC channels yesterday. People should be free to have access to different sources of information,” she said.
Miranda Roberts said the discontinuation of SABC was unfortunate, as there was nothing to watch on Zimbabwean television.
“We cannot watch television anymore because ZBC has nothing to offer,” she said.
Others said they will have to resort to paying Digital Satellite Television (DStv) subscriptions as there was no way they could go back to watching ZBC.
The cheapest DStv bouquet is $10, with the most expensive being $72, which could be out of reach of many in a country where 85% of the population is estimated to be unemployed and of the employed, the average salary is $250.
Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe chapter director Nhlanhla Ngwenya decried the blocking of the signal, saying it had become an alternative platform for Zimbabweans to access news.
“SABC had become not only a major source of quality entertainment for millions of Zimbabweans, but an outlet of alternative news on events taking place in Zimbabwe.
“As the country heads for elections, the free-to-air decoders would have provided another angle on the
management of the process different from that provided by the State-controlled TV.”
Ngwenya said civil society and other political parties were not allowed to advertise on ZBC and SABC had become a platform they could use to get their message across.
“Given the fact that close to three million Zimbabweans had access to free-to-air satellite TV, those that have been marginalised by the State broadcaster would have found an alternative outlet in SABC, albeit at a high cost,” he said.
“Therefore, the timing of the switching off could not have come at a worse time.
“I am sure those in authority and accused of obstructing the free flow of information to distort the realities on the ground are overjoyed by this turn of events as it snugly fits in their tyrannical scheme.”
It is estimated that signal piracy is at 92% in Zimbabwe, easily the highest in Africa.
In 2011 eTV Botswana approached the Gauteng High Court in South Africa seeking to order Sentech to encrypt its signal as it claimed that piracy was affecting its audience ratings and this was granted a year later.
In an order last year, the Gauteng upper court ordered Sentech to change its encryption so Zimbabwe, Malawi, Lesotho, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique could no longer have access to South African television.
Some of the popular programmes that Zimbabweans are likely to miss out on are Generations, Muvhango, Isidingo, Intesexions and the South African football premier league.