Recently members of Zimbabwe Republic Police arrested about 11 people at Beitbridge post accusing them of piracy. These individuals were allegedly trying to import OpenView decoders into Zimbabwe. The police then seized these decoders. This is a strange development. People have been bringing in free to air decoders into Zimbabwe since the Wiztech and Philibao days around 2004 and as far as we are aware no one faced these piracy charges.

For their part OpenView seems to support the arrests:

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

Antionio Lee, COO of OpenView

No one wants to watch ZTV

The last reason given by OpenView as to why Zimbabweans shouldn’t buy their decoders is laughable and ironic. It is precisely the very reason why Zimbabweans want to buy OpenView decoders-they don’t want to watch ZTV the sole broadcasting channel in the country. The state’s hand weighs heavily on ZTV which is often accused not only of being shamelessly partisan government cheerleaders but of churning out boring quality content of rubbish quality. Most shows exist just to heap praise on government officials rather than to entertain and inform. In contrast, OpenView is purely about soapies and other forms of entertainment in HD quality.

It’s also rather strange that OpenView seems to be enthusiastic about the crackdown. Or more likely they are just making the right noises so as not to offend the involved officials. They have made other nonsensical remarks such as claiming they have the ability to tell where an OpenView customer is located which is of course simply a lie. They stand to benefit more if their viewership expands to other countries. It means better advertising revenue even from South African companies because Zimbabwe is a net importer with a lot of Zimbabweans importing goods and services from South Africa.

It is also not clear why the Zimbabwean police are investing resources into what is basically a harmless crime. There has to be another real reason for these arrests. It could be this was a notorious smuggling ring that so happened to have OpenView decoders. It could be the government’s feeble attempt to prop up ZBC or any of the other dozen possible reasons because the fact is this country has never cared about piracy. In fact, the state broadcaster occasionally pirates content from YouTube and broadcasts it without a care in the world. So no this is not Zimbabwe’s government’s way of saying they are now against piracy. I can almost bet that a good number of the police officers who took part in the arrest have an OpenView decoder in their houses. That how popular and loved OpenView is.