Reprieve for MultiChoice as Zim approves forex payments

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MultiChoice has received a reprieve from Zimbabwe's new restrictions on payments using foreign currencies after the country’s central bank – which has also given the green light for usage of foreign credit and debit cards – allowed the pay television network’s Zimbabwe operation to collect subscriptions in foreign currency.

Banks in Zimbabwe have been restricting payment modalities for DStv, with Stanbic Bank telling its depositors in September last year that it was no longer facilitating DStv payments "due to the prevailing economic [situation]".

A personal finance consultant with a local bank said on Wednesday: "We are now processing DStv payments, but we anticipate business from this service commission head to be low because of the power cuts."

MultiChoice Zimbabwe said in a texted message to subscribers on Tuesday evening that payments could still be made through banks in US dollars. "DStv payments can still be made at selected banks in US$ as the DStv service is exempt from Statutory Instrument SI 142," read the text message.

Big spenders

Other Zimbabweans or their relatives are opting to pay for the service from South Africa through Checkers and Shoprite outlets.

The green light to allow forex payments for DStv follows a meeting held on June 25 between local finance institutions and the central bank, which failed to come up with a way to handle payments for the pay television service. Minutes of the meeting noted that DStv operated both locally and as a foreign service.

In 2016, Zimbabweans emerged as big spenders on DStv, with as much as US$45m being spent on subscriptions in the second half of the year, according to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe monetary policy statement released in February 2017.

The new monetary measures introduced by Zimbabwe, meanwhile, have created uncertainty on the usage of foreign debit and credit cards. However, Fin24 observed some retail and fast food outlets in Harare accepting payments for services via foreign debit and credit cards, with cashiers at retailers including Pick 'n Pay, OK Zimbabwe and various franchise operators for Nando's and Steers confirming they were now allowed to accept such payments.

Usage of MasterCard and Visa debit and credit cards is, however, premised on the prevailing interbank exchange rate of around 1:8 for the Zim dollar against the US dollar.

Travellers to Zimbabwe are still encountering challenges when buying fuel, as most filling stations are still not accepting the foreign debit cards or foreign currencies in cash.

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