Long drive to smart cards

The following letter, from an enraged Multichoice customer in Mtubatuba, was sent to me via the Mail & Guardian in September. In a display of the improved internal efficiency of this newspaper, I received it last week. It remains relevant and is reproduced in full but with a couple of excisions made with regard to the sensitivities of elderly readers. Please note that the writer, as I do, prefers the old, colonial name “Zululand” as opposed to the approved clumsiness of KwaZulu-Natal.

Dear Mr Kirby

I am a subscriber to the pay-channel TV service called Multichoice. I live near Mtubatuba in Zululand and negotiated my DStv installation with a local agent, ElectroVision. They provided all the paperwork, credit references, applications et cetera and subsequently installed the satellite dish and switched me on most professionally. Perfection.

Now Multichoice advises me I have to exchange my decoder’s smart card for a new one. Otherwise my TV set will go blank come the end of December. But I can’t do this with the local Multichoice agent in Mtubatuba. No, I have to make a trip to Richard’s Bay, a 110km round trip, just to get my card changed. Friends in Hluhluwe have to travel 220km and the poor bastards in Pongola 500km. At R2 a kilometre, how does that work out?


Multichoice has a monopoly, so (expletive deleted) the customer. For the whole of Zululand they claim they have only one agent, based in Richard’s Bay. What about all the other agents selling and installing their dishes?

I think M-Net Multichoice should be exposed as the (expletive deleted)-houses they are.

Otherwise come January I will be paying R300 plus a month for a blank screen. Unless I kowtow to Multichoice.

Please, Mr Kirby, let us poor unfortunates have some say in the matter. The power of the pen … — Brian Utterson, Zululand

I think you’re absolutely (expletive deleted)-ing right, Brian. Yours is not the only correspondence I have had recently on what seems to have been rather odd behaviour by DStv decoders. They’ve stopped doing it but for a few weeks the DStv picture was being interrupted by sudden blackouts — some a second or so, others a bit longer. It certainly happened on my signal. It was put about that these little interruptions were being done on purpose by DStv, to serve as little “ticklers” to persuade their customers to get down there and change their smart cards. I wasn’t able to find anyone in Multichoice/DStv to comment on this — not that I tried very hard. Apparently there was a welter of complaints and they’ve stopped doing it.

I must say I wasn’t too impressed by SABC television’s coverage of the latest cricket scandal. There is much to be debated here, which wasn’t. But at least they did present, in all its counterfeit logic, a comment made by the United Cricket Board (UCB) CEO, Gerald Majola. Asked why the UCB had decided to ignore the rulings of the International Cricket Council, Mr Majola looked sage and, in tones of fatuous self-righteousness replied that, in defying the council ruling, all the UCB was considering was the future of cricket.

Too true, but we have to wonder what sort of future this might be if the international administrators of the game are snubbed whenever it doesn’t suit the players. Will this be a future when a player, given out leg before wicket, will not only have the right to dispute the umpire’s ruling, but will know that if that ruling isn’t withdrawn and the umpire replaced, his team captain will threaten mutiny or the cancellation of a tour on the grounds that he believes the lbw decision was wrong — even racist?

Don’t talk rot, Gerald. South African cricket is still trying to absent itself from its recent disgraces: the dubious manipulations of God-botherer Hansie Cronje. Confrontation with the international controlling body hardly helps to hoist us back into the fold of the game of gentlemen. That local politicians could hardly wait to get involved in this latest mockery is another example of how ready the South African government is to ape the patterns of Zimbabwe, to employ the notorious Mugabe Manoeuvre — an erect finger to any one who dares to disagree.

Last week’s best on-screen subtitle was SABC3’s Tess of the D’urbanvilles, and last week’s most disgusting scene was of ANC Minister of Defence Mosiuoa Lekota all hugger-mugger and kissy-kissy with Kortbroek van Schalkwyk, the smug first-generation descendant of the good old National Party apartheid-mongers.

Was it in fulfilment of this ideal that Nelson Mandela sat on Robben Island for 27 years?

The Mail&Guardian, November 30, 2001

The Mail&Guardian, November 30, 2001

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