Instead of comparing upwards and to countries with more sophisticated television markets and TV industries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Western Europe and comparable TV markets like Australia, New Zealand, parts of Asia as well as South America, the South African government chooses countries with lesser developed TV markets when it wants to compare and rationalise the inclusion of a conditional access (CA) system or encryption for free-to-air public television.
At issue is a contentious standoff in South Africa's switch from analogue to digital television, already delayed for more than half a decade.
The majority of South Africa's broadcasters want public, free-to-air television in South Africa to remain unencrypted. Some manufacturers agree.
Some local decoder manufacturers, the government and e.tv however want an encryption system be built into the set-top boxes.
South Africa's 11 million TV households will have to buy a set-top box at about R800 each, and in many cases also a new special antenna as an additional expense. Built-in encryption technology - whether used or not - will make these boxes more expensive in terms of hardware as well as proprietary software licences.
Encryption will also lock the boxes for South Africa, making it impossible for South African viewers to possibly buy cheaper imported STBs which adhere to standards, or to buy TV sets from international manufacturers which have DTT receivers automatically built-in, but no encryption systems.
An encryption system which makes boxes more complex and expensive for the ordinary TV viewer, will aid the government's goal of using digital migration for job creation, to build and maintain a local set-top box industry.
An encryption system will also enable STBs to be switched off when they're taken outside of South Africa's borders like neighbouring countries, preventing TV signals from South African TV channels from being seen outside of the country.
The department of communications attacked the pay-TV platform MultiChoice, South Africa's community TV stations and the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronic Components (Namec), saying other countries are also using, or are about to use the same system where the signals for public television are encrypted and with an encryption system built into boxes.
"They include Zambia, Uganda, Botswana, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Malawi, Nigeria, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya, Malaysia, Ukraine, Belarus and Slovakia," says the department of communications".
In a statement South Africa's minister of communications, Yunus Carrim says South Africa's STBs "will have a control system for industrial policy and other reasons".
"The STB policies are consistent with the ANC's Mangaung resolutions and government's policies on encouraging competition in monopolised sectors, BBBEE, job-creation and advancing the needs of the poor and disadvantaged," says Yunus Carrim.
"The South African market will be flooded by cheap low quality STB imports and undermine the local manufacturing industry and the prospects of jobs," says Yunus Carrim.
"Poor people will not be able to buy new digital televisions for years to come".
"Most emerging black manufacturers anyway support control. Without it, they will lose out to foreign imports".