Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information & Communications has summoned Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to what it describes as a round table discussion to fully understand the circumstances that led MultiChoice Africa to withdraw its DStv services.
The meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 16 and this follows an announcement by Minister of Information & Digitalisation, Moses Kunkuyu, who said Government is intervening in the impasse between MACRA; MultiChoice Malawi and MultiChoice Africa Holdings.
Kunkuyu told the media that the impasse between the two sides does not favour any of them, saying if MultiChoice leaves, it will lose business and at the same time Malawians will lose entertainment, education and information they get from the company’s services — on top of jobs that may be lost including revenue that the government gets.
After MACRA’s tough and solid stance in restraining MultiChoice Malawi and its parent company, MultiChoice Africa Holdings from implementing any changes or modifications to DStv services tariffs, MultiChoice Africa Holdings announced its withdraw of DStv services from Malawi with immediate effect.
But while the government and Parliament seems to oppose MACRA’s solid resolve, South African and Zambian citizens are imploring on their governments to emulate the stance taken by MACRA, with Zambia alluding that what MultiChoice Africa Holdings has done is more like blackmail.
This description of blackmail has come to pass as Government and Parliament are up against its own agency, MACRA — a regulator which is mandated to look into the interests of the public.
Even in South Africa, where MultiChoice Africa generated from, its citizens are applauding the stance taken by MACRA with Elisio Honwana commenting that “DStv is overrated”.
He was responding to an article by South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), whose link was posted on its Facebook page and on the reactions to it, Mulaudzi Calvin Netshaulu said: “Big up to Malawi, MultiChoice keeps on increasing rates every year — as if they are also adding more channels, and we still watch same things over and over again….It’s criminality.”
To which Panduleni-Aluhe YaNdjambi disclosed that they withdrew from DSTV service about three years ago, saying MultiChoice cares less about its customers: “They are so much interested only in making money in increased rate every single year but without much change on the service they deliver. A very good decision indeed by a Malawian Court.”
Shine Mogale was of the view that MultiChoice “is highly monopolised” hinting that there is no product that would penetrate the market and “be above them for as long as they are in existence in South Africa: They will always find ways to either kill it or keep it below them. Look at Starsat for example — another example is NN7, the rest is history.”
This was also alluded to by a South African broadcaster, whose phone-in programme was shared on TikTok that indicates that MultiChoice Africa has made a whopping loss of 2.92 billion South African rands.
The presenter’s analysis is that MultiChoice had been monopolistic over the years but when technology upped the game, middle and upper income earners started downgrading from DStv Premium package opting for Netflix, YouTube or most recent TikTok.
These top customers, according to the presenter, usually accessed DStv for current international news, which is still available in other packages whose subscriptions are lower.
He emphasized that MultiChoice had been monopolistic but not innovative enough to counter any competition that management should have prepared for in advance.
Commenting on SABC’s report, Thabiso Maseko said: “I like Malawi government — they are standing up for the citizens like here”, while Fikile Ngwenya suggested that South Africans should prepare “a petition to make demands on [MultiChoice] for better packages and affordable ones”.
Gabisile Nkosi agreed to this, saying they must be given a choice by paying for channels they want to watch as opposed to he ready made bouquets.
Gracious Sebola bemoaned that country’s regulations which require its citizens to pay TV license on top of the DStv service, but when they can’t afford to pay for just one month, all DStv channels — including SABC channels — are disconnected: “Why can’t they leave on SABC channels for those who pays for TV license? DStv prices are insane, bravo Malawi.”
Malibongwe Kinga G. Gora also shared his agreement that South Africa needs to emulate MACRA’s resolve, saying: “We can’t be paying high prices to watch the same movie 5 days in a row.”
Kolobe Modika agreed on lack of new contents on DStv, saying: “All they care about is how many people watch Shaka illembe. Then everything else us just repeat after repeat. Then every year they increase their subscription by 10%.”
Jeremiah Skhosana also supported Malawi, saying they “must force it to withdraw in SA as well it doesn’t serve any good purpose that builds and unite South Africa but the exact opposite”.
Percy Muluti implored on the rest of the continent’s regulators to review communications services and act accordingly to push MultiChoice to provide affordable services.
In Zambia, Mwiza Mphande said “a company that doesn’t go into negotiations is not good to make business with” as he joined hundreds of commentators who congratulated MACRA’s resolve — with Chilangwa Davies Chileshe saying Malawi is the “headquarters of disciplinary committee of the whole Africa”.
Kamima Nkhowani agreed to this saying: “When it comes to the rule of law and decision making Malawi is very serious. They have made tough and very painful decision but worth of protecting its citizens from exploitation by DStv monsters.”
The applauds continued with Chongo Mutombo saying “MultiChoice has finally met a match” while suggesting that “maybe another player can reconsider coming to Africa and render some competition”.
“The only key about DStv is football, if another company acquires the rights boom! — competition to level the playing field.”
Mando Asia said: “If Zambia can follow suit, definitely DStv will wake up and realize that they will lose a large customer base — and at last they will heed to people’s plea of a better service at reasonable prices”, to which Marcus Royd added voice to say: “Let them go. It’s such developments that awaken people and seek alternatives. Dependency breeds arrogance — can’t wait for this to happen here.”
Sabrina Malipande gave Malawians the confidence, saying MultiChoice “thinks it’s untouchable” for not even negotiating and that its management “wants the Malawi Government to start begging” for the DStv service: “I pray other countries to follow suit.”
Ali Martin Chimombo added credence by saying MACRA has “set an example to what ought to be done across Africa”, while Isaac Sakufiwa opined that “Malawi looks small geographically, but they have stunned the world with some of the tough decisions the country has taken”.
Wellington Mambwe and Caroline Muyunda asked Malawians to lend Zambia the leaders on this issue to which Bwalya Augustine replied: “This explains why most of our Presidents are said to be Malawians — these people are brave. Here we allow ourselves to be exploited.”
James Musonda, while describing MACRA’s resolve as “a good move”, invited Malawians in Mchinji that they are “welcome to come and watch the English Premier League in Chipata”.
To which Chiluba Kabeli said: “As a matter of fact, the absence of TV has the potential to bond families, bring about innovation and promote productivity.”
In his statement of withdrawal, MultiChoice Africa Holdings’ group executive-corporate affairs & stakeholder relations, Keabetswe Modimoeng maintained that MultiChoice Malawi “does not offer the DStv service to the public and, therefore, cannot set or adjust tariffs for this service, a point repeatedly made to MACRA”.
He added that as a result, the Court order handed down to MultiChoice Malawi “is incapable of being implemented by them but carries with it grave consequences for the directors and management of MultiChoice Malawi, including imprisonment”.
He further said as its supplier, MultiChoice Malawi is given “an increasingly adverse regulatory environment”, and it is “therefore, left with no option but to terminate the DStv service indefinitely”.
“Customers are hereby, and with immediate effect, requested to halt payment for the DStv service,” he said. “Customers who have already paid their new subscription for the DStv service will have those services honoured until the current 30 day viewing cycle ends on or before 10 September 2023.
“From Wednesday, 9 August 2023, no new subscriptions or reconnections will be accepted, said the statement, while thanking customers “for their support over many years” and also to MultiChoice Malawi “for their professional conduct in supplying its services over as many years”.
The High Court of Malawi sitting in Lilongwe issued an order directing MultiChoice Malawi to comply with the order of injunction which was granted to MACRA on July 29th restraining the digital entertainment service provider from implementing any changes or modifications to DStv services tariffs.
Since July 29, when MACRA was granted the injunction, MultiChoice Malawi applied for a temporary stay of the injunction and when the period applied for an extension which was granted.
Then on Monday, MACRA Director General, Daud Suleman told the public that they expected MultiChoice Malawi to comply with the High Court’s directive without any further delay, saying “any person who disobeys the High Court’s order of injunction may be found guilty of Contempt of Court and liable to imprisonment”.
In its report of MultiChoice’s withdrawal of DStv service, SABC reached out to Malawi’s media campaigner, Daniel Nyorongo who is said the development “is sad for Malawians, tourists and the hospitality sector”.
“Malawi will not have this product that tourists and visitors to hotels, lodges, resorts would wish to enjoy watching,” he is quoted as saying: “So in that regard it is a sad development.
“However, we should also be mindful and accept that indeed the cost of DStv has been very expensive. It would be ideal if MACRA, MultiChoice Malawi and MultiChoice Africa reached a consensus.”