There is no way to sugar-coat it-Zimbabwean Television channels such. Most people have therefore found refuge in free to air decoders over the years. First, it was Philibao and WizTech decoders until eTV and its stakeholders blocked the open signal. Now OpenView HD (a subsidiary of eTV) decoders are all the rage. Thousands of homes in Zimbabwe use these decoders although their use is considered to be sort of a grey area. If the government of Zimbabwe and OpenView themselves are to be believed watching OpenView HD channels in Zimbabwe is tantamount to piracy. This is why the ZRP has declared a de facto war on the sale and distribution of these decoders.

A couple of weeks ago we learnt that the ZRP had arrested some OpenView dealers that were attempting to “smuggle” in OpenView Decoders and thought this was a once-off operation. We also scoffed because given how porous our borders are, there was no way they were going to be able to stop the trade in OpenView decoders. In any case most decoders are already on the Zimbabwean side of the border. Harare CBD and Facebook Market are replete with OpenView HD Decoder dealers who will deliver to your doorstep, install and activate the decoder or provide any assistance you might need. The ZRP and the government seem to be very much aware of this fact which is why they are now targeting OpenView dealers in Harare.

According to our colleagues at Pindula News, the ZRP has been conducting regular raids. During these raids, they have managed to police seize 72 OVHD decoders, 95 counterfeit DStv power supply units, 203 counterfeit DStv remote controls, as well as five receipt books. As we noted in our early article on this issue something is off here. The Zimbabwe government has been very relaxed when it comes to upholding copyrights of foreign entities and for them to suddenly care about fake DStv power supply units and remote controls is completely out of character. Some conspiracy theory peddlers have gone on to suggest that this has nothing to do with copyrights at all. Rather they claim, it is all about protecting the high-end shops of the country’s elites. We cannot back this claim but it is not as crazy as it sounds.

A losing battle

The police are fighting a losing battle here. Not only do we have a porous border through which illicit substances and products continue to pour in. We have issues like corruption at the border. Then there is also the fact that thousands of households already have the decoders and a lot of informal traders do not even have physical shops where they sell. They peddle their wares on WhatsApp and Facebook Market and catching them will be very hard.