THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Zimbabwe Reserwe Bank slams Zimbabweans for 'illogical' behaviour of subscribing to and paying for DStv and worsening the country's foreign exchange situation.


File this one in that can't-make-it-up category: The Zimbabwe Reserve Bank has the bizarre audacity to slam Zimbabweans for subscribing to, and paying for, DStv - calling Zimbabwean consumers' pay-for-TV behaviour "illogical" and unsustainable on the Zimbabwe economy.

The bank's restrictive stance on money leaving the country is raising fears on two front - firstly for MultiChoice Africa and MultiChoice Zimbabwe trying to do business in the struggling Zimbabwe economy, and secondly for ordinary Zimbabwean consumers who just want better television and who are prepared to pay for it but might soon not be able to.

Struggling Zimbabwean consumers, looking for entertainment, escapism and connectivity to a bigger world and trying to subscribe to DStv already saw their payment options for DStv subscriptions dwindle the past few months.

Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank's statement through governor of the reserve bank, John Mangudya is raising anxiety that it's going to somehow clamp down on DStv subscribers - driving DStv subscriber numbers down by targeting the payment options available to them.

The Zimbabwe Reserve Bank is upset that Zimbabwean consumers dare to watch DStv and pay for something like it, when they're supposed to buy "local" things like cooking oil.

The Zimbabwe Reserve Bank in its January 2017 monetary statement (find it on pages 62 and 63) says Zimbabwe consumers paying for DStv and thereby allowing foreign exchange to leave the embattled Southern African country, is doing an illogical thing.

Zimbabweans spent U$206.7 million on DStv subscription payments and credit card payments during the second half of 2016 between July and December and Zimbabwe's central bank doesn't like it at all.

The bank says in its statement that the "wasted" money "should have been preserved as foreign exchange for raw materials and other foreign payments that include education". "Use of hard-earned foreign currency in this manner is not sustainable for the economy".

"Spending more foreign exchange on DStv subscriptions rather than on raw materials to produce cooking oil, for example, is not only counter-productive but also illogical."

In short it means that the bank says that DStv Zimbabwe as a business and DStv subscribers in that country paying for it, are worsening Zimbabwe's already extreme cash shortage.

In a normal economy and a real democracy, consumers are allowed to spend and use their discretionary income as they wish as long as it's not illegal. Sadly in Zim, even DStv is now bad according to its big bank. 

The use of Visa credit cards outside of Zimbabwe has already been disabled without prior warning and Econet Wireless has also been forced to stop payments for DStv subscriptions in Zimbabwe in American dollar through its mobile money platform EcoCash.

Many Zimbabweans now have to convert their money into South African rand and do payment that way, but there's also amount limits being imposed, making this option increasingly more difficult and almost impossible as well.

The Zimbabwe government probably thinks bank ATMs are more entertaining that watching DStv.

That must be the reason why Zimbabwean consumers have been limited by the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank in the amount of their money they can withdraw as cash at ATMs per day.

That way, Zimbabweans can experience better entertainment, standing in long queues and enjoying wasting hours of time, trying to get to the front to make withdrawals.

Zim is ripe for entertaining local TV shows but the local Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation probably won't bite. 

An international jetset reality shopping show for Grace could work - maybe even The Great Zimbabwe Bake Off in which she and competitors try their hand at doing lavish birthday cakes for old Bob.

Or what about Desperate Housewives of Harare or Million Dollar Listing Bulawayo? Maybe Fear Factor Zimbabwe would reflect current sentiment the best.